The paralegal profession continues to grow, as paralegals are performing a wider variety of crucial functions within law firms, government agencies, and corporate offices. Paralegals are a valuable asset in any legal office for conducting research, drafting documents, organizing records, and investigating the facts to help lawyers be successful during trials or court cases. Becoming a paralegal may be the perfect option for those looking to enter the legal field without attending law school. Although more than 1,000 colleges and universities nationwide offer paralegal certificate programs, the following are the best online certificate programs in paralegal studies to begin formal training for a fascinating career in law.
Featured Online Paralegal Certificate Program
1. University of California Berkeley
Among the world’s premier public higher education institutions, the University of California Berkeley is currently ranked as the 21st best college in the entire nation. The university is well-known for its academic excellence and research contributions, as well as a high-achieving faculty comprised of some Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, and MacArthur fellows. University of California Berkeley also offers unique opportunities for students through the comprehensive UC extension programs for accredited online education.
Designed by practicing paralegals and attorneys, the Certificate Program is Paralegal Studies at UC Berkeley offers all of the foundational skills and knowledge to enter the workforce as a paralegal with confidence. In just six months, students can fulfill all of California’s educational requirements for paralegals anytime and anywhere. Students are welcomed to proceed at their own pace through online curriculum about practical paralegal skills, legal research, legal writing, and law office procedures. After successful completion, students are granted an Award of Completion that is sure to grab a potential employer’s attention.
2. Pace University
With its New York City, Westchester County, and global online campuses, Pace University is well-known for providing high-quality education for a wide range of professions with a strong foundation in liberal arts. Pace is currently ranked as the 174th best college overall, but the most impressive feature of this school is ranked the 1st best college for online education in the entire country. In fact, all of the university’s prestigious schools offer coursework to accommodate distant and self-motivated learners with a convenient online format.
Pace University’s Online Paralegal Certificate Program is nationally acclaimed for being designed by paralegals, judges, and attorneys across the country. The hands-on program focuses on real-world skills that are most crucial within law firms and corporate legal divisions for success. Pace understands the needs of a working student, so the education provides tremendous flexibility. The curriculum is based upon the legal process, court structure, legal writing, investigation, and research skills. The intensive coursework can be completed within five months and prepare students with marketable skills for employment opportunities.
3. Boston University
Boston University, currently ranked as the 51st best college in the nation, is well-known for providing high-quality education to a diverse student body for more than 150 years. The Boston University Online Certificate in Paralegal Studies delivers the same proven curriculum as the long-standing campus program, except in a convenient online and interactive environment. Accessible from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, the program allows students to benefit from the flexibility of a self-paced curriculum with the guidance of distinguished instructors with legal expertise. The curriculum is heavily focused on legal research, legal writing and reasoning, technology, and corporate law. The online certificate program is offered at six different start times throughout the year, in order to allow students to start at their earliest convenience.
4. University of Georgia
The University of Georgia is the oldest, most comprehensive, and most diversified public institution for higher learning in the entire state. In addition, it is nationally recognized for its academic excellence by being ranked as the 63rd best college in the United States. The university’s motto “to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things,” is a testament to its integral role in helping students achieve academic success and a wealth of employment opportunities for years. As one of the top universities in the nation, UGA offers a culture of exceptional academics with renowned faculty members and a community of diverse students from all areas of the globe.
Offered in partnership with the Center for Legal Studies, the University of Georgia offers students the opportunity for a fully online paralegal certificate program. In its practice-oriented curriculum, students are trained to interview witnesses, research law regulations, prepare legal documents, investigate complex facts, and assist lawyers for preparing cases for the court. Within the 14 weeks of the online program, students submit assignments and exams through email, as well as engage in class discussions and one-on-one support with instructors.
5. University of Miami
A private research university with more than 15,000 students, the University of Miami is a vibrant and diverse educational community that is focused on exceptional teaching and learning in the South Florida region. The university has been ranked among the top 50 schools in the nation for the last four years, including its current spot at number 44. University of Miami offers more than 130 majors and programs to accommodate varying students’ interests through on-campus learning in Coral Gables, as well as anywhere in the world through global online programs.
The University of Miami online Paralegal Studies program is specifically designed to provide the same high-quality educational experience as the renowned on-campus version. Students engage in lectures, exercises, mock exams, writing labs, research projects, and legal labs with Westlaw and LexisNexis. Students can earn a prestigious UM paralegal certificate within just 4 short months, after gaining extensive experience with all of the fundamentals of the profession.
6. Stony Brook University
Since its establishment more than half a century ago, Stony Brook University has been recognized for its academic excellence, innovation, and progress for transforming students’ lives. Distinguished as the 92nd best American college, the university is also internationally recognized for being a leading research institution for groundbreaking discoveries. The vibrant academic community is comprised of diverse students, high-achieving scholars, and other valued members that make the university successful at the national and global levels.
Stony Brook now also offers an intensive and nationally acclaimed paralegal certification program offered both on-campus and online. Ideal for both beginning and advanced paralegals, the program is practice-oriented for areas of law where paralegals are in the most demand. Students gain essential experience with interviewing, investigating, researching, and writing legal documents to assist attorneys for courtroom litigation. Upon successful completion, students receive a Certificate of Completion, as well as 8.4 continuing education units that can be transferred for further degrees.
7. University of Texas at Austin
One of the largest and most respected universities in the state, the University of Texas at Austin provides higher education to students from every state in the country and more than 100 countries. The university currently ranks 46th among the top national universities for academic reputation, as well as 16th among the top public schools. University of Texas at Austin is also well-known for having the 15th best law school in the nation. The online paralegal certificate program trains students to excel in careers in the profession through internet-based comprehensive support. Students utilize traditional texts, online lectures, writing labs, mock exams, and the guidance of experienced attorney instructors to earn the certificate.
8. James Madison University
James Madison University, located in the picturesque Harrisonburg, Virginia within the Shenandoah Valley, has frequently been recognized as one of the top universities in the country. The university is currently ranked as the 2nd best public colleges in the South by the U.S. News and World Report. Furthermore, Forbes magazine has ranked JMU at number 38 for the top 100 best buy colleges due to its high graduation rates and low tuition costs for affordable, successful education.
The online paralegal certificate program at James Madison University is well-known in the field for being rigorous and comprehensive. Students gain valuable experience with legal investigation, research, drafting, and procedures that are essential for paralegals in law firms. Students are prepared for the competitive Virginia and Washington, D.C. job market through this non-credit online certificate program that is especially designed for adult learners. Those enrolled benefit greatly from a self-pace environment led by the guidance from highly qualified instructors.
According to the May 2012 records from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for paralegals and legal assistants is growing at a fast rate of 18 percent between 2010 and 2020. Since paralegals can be a less costly alternative to hiring lawyers, more employers are hiring paralegals to increase their legal departments and rebuild their support staff after the recession. In addition, paralegals are well-rewarded for their work, with an average annual salary of $50,220. In order to begin a career in this growing and rewarding industry, it is recommended that students consider these top online certificate programs. These are the best of the best in terms of ranking, accreditation, curriculum, practical experience, faculty credentials, tuition rates, student support services, and graduate employment opportunities.
Check out our Top Online Paralegal Programs for 2015