Online Paralegal Certification Versus Formal Degrees: Is There A Difference?

Posted by Daniel Lawrence on December, 2015

The paralegal field has several different avenues to becoming qualified, at least when it comes what type of education you will need. People wishing to pursue a paralegal career can get anywhere from a minimal amount of training through an online paralegal certification course, up to obtaining a master’s degree in paralegal studies. No matter if one chooses to take the minimal or maximum amount of training, there is also the issue of taking exams to become certified by the NALS and NALA, which earn additional recognition among the professional community. The following comparisons will help detail the highlights between the different levels of education you can choose to get for a career as a paralegal.

Certificate of Diploma Courses

The quickest, or least amount of schooling, is to take a certificate or diploma course. These are usually done online, or at smaller campuses, and typically take less than a year, to two years at most to ever complete, since completion is typically paced by the student. The important issue when it comes to choosing and online course is that is must be accredited to carry weight within the professional field. Out of the 1,000+ paralegal courses being offered in the US, only around 250 are actually accredited by an organization that is recognized by the US Department of education, as well as meets the American Bar Association (ABA) requirements.

  • Biggest Pros: Online courses are almost always cheaper than traditional courses and can be completed in a manner that does not interfere with a job.
  • Biggest Cons: Not all online courses are accredited or meet the ABA’s requirements.

Associates, Bachelors, or Masters Degrees

Going through 2, 4, or 6 years’ worth of schooling for paralegal studies might seem a bit intense for some, but statistically speaking according to the most recent O-Net survey, a partner of the American Job Center Network, 44% of participating paralegal professionals had a bachelor’s degree, 30% had and associates, and only 12% had some, though not enough for a degree, while the remaining 14% had no formal education/ on the job training.

  • Biggest Pros: The employers that require associates or bachelor’s degrees are also in the higher paying bracket of paralegal jobs.
  • Biggest Cons: When it comes to obtaining a formal degree, the years and tuition expenses required to obtain them can be burdensome.
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