Although the paralegal profession is among the fastest growing in the United States, it is becoming increasingly competitive for employment positions after graduation. Therefore, it is often beneficial for paralegals to further their education and experience in order to increase marketability that will impress future employers. When paralegals go the extra mile to receive a graduate certificate, they can open new doors in the legal field and enter the workforce with confidence. The following are the best graduate certificate programs in paralegal studies that prepare students for a fascinating and rewarding career in law.
1. Duke University
Consistently recognized as one of the nation’s top universities, Duke University is currently ranked as the 8th best college in the entire country. Situated in a suburban setting in Durham, North Carolina, Duke is a private comprehensive teaching and research university that provides exceptional higher education to students from nearly every country on the globe. Besides academic excellence, Duke is distinguished for having one of the most gorgeous campuses in America, characterized by soaring Gothic buildings and lush botanical gardens in a vibrant area of learning.
The Duke University College of Continuing Studies Paralegal Program offers two distinct options for pursuing the certificate. The classroom-based program is housed in either the Durham or Charlotte campuses, while the online certificate programs can be accessed from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. Held to the highest standards of practical training, all of the instructors are experienced attorneys that provide a challenging curriculum to students. Upon completion, students are experts in legal research, investigation, ethics, and court systems.
2. Rice University
Rice University, nestled within the center of the nation’s fourth largest city of Houston, is currently ranked as the 17th best college and the 10th best value school in America by the U.S. News and World Report. The university combines all of the advantages of a liberal arts college, including a low faculty to student ratio of 6:1 and small class sizes of just 13 students, with the numerous resources and facilities of a large research university. Consistently heralded as one of the best values in higher education, Rice is well-known for allowing students to flourish with internship, seminar, workshop, and research opportunities.
The Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies offers on-campus and online certification programs in paralegal studies. Both programs employ the same curriculum, designed specifically from input from practicing attorneys, to help paralegals gain expertise in legal writing, litigation, legal research, and many other areas of law. Students benefit from the hands-on practical skill experience in conducting research, writing a portfolio, and preparing legal documents for mock clients. Rice also provides a unique career support service to help paralegals prepare resumes, improve interview skills, and become embraced by the legal community.
3. George Washington University
Situated within the heart of our nation’s capital, in the core of the United States government and legal system, George Washington University is the largest higher education institution in the District of Columbia. In fact, the main campus is just four short blocks from the White House. It is currently ranked by Forbes magazine as the 62nd best private college in the entire nation, while it is the 41st best college in the Northeast. George Washington University is well-known for its long legacy of academic excellence dating back to 1821, as well as the unparalleled opportunity it offers students to work alongside leaders in their discipline.
In conjunction with the prestigious George Washington University Law School, the College of Professional Studies provides paralegals with an engaging and rigorous graduate certification program. As an institutional member of the American Association for Paralegal Education, the curriculum perfectly balances the theoretical, historical, and philosophy study of law with practical applications to develop strong communication, analytical, and technological skills. Students can earn the graduate certificate in just eight months by attending classes two evenings per week in the downtown Washington, DC campus.
4. Texas State University
The comprehensive public institution of Texas State University is located on a beautiful 457-acre campus in the suburban setting of San Marcos. Currently ranked the 46th best colleges in the South, Texas States provides a challenging academic environment on a diverse campus that diverse students from over 68 countries call home. The university provides paralegals with bachelor’s degrees to further their achievement with a graduate paralegal certificate program. Comprised of 24 credit hours, the certificate program’s curriculum includes legal research, legal theories, litigation, legal electives, and an internship within a law office. After successfully completing the program, students have the option of pursuing a Master of Arts in Legal Studies within the same school as well.
5. Emory University
Emory University is a private institution, situated in the suburb of Druid Hills within minutes of downtown Atlanta. Ranked as the 20th best college in America, Emory is known for its demanding academics, outstanding professional schools, and state of the art research facilities. Students can attend classes at Emory’s Briarcliff and main campuses, as well as the satellite locations in Alpharetta and Decatur. The university is divided into nine schools for undergraduate and graduate programs, including the highly ranked 23rd best law school in the country.
Emory University’s Continuing Education provides the longest-running post-baccalaureate paralegal program in Georgia, with more than 1,000 graduates since 2005. The paralegal certificate program prepares graduates with in-depth legal knowledge and skills to succeed in the profession. Students receive superior instruction and career development assistance from licensed attorneys, along with convenient flexible scheduling options. In order to fit the busy schedule of a paralegal, the school supplies students with weekday, evening, and Saturday courses.
6. University of California Santa Barbara
Situated atop cliffs overlooking the stunning Pacific Ocean, University of California at Santa Barbara is located just 100 miles up the coast from the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The public institution is currently ranked as the 41st best college in the entire nation. The university is well-known for providing high-quality education to both undergraduates and graduates alike, innovation through applied research programs, and community service learning opportunities. UCSB is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Through the American Bar Association approved Paralegal Studies Professional Certificate program offered by University of California at Santa Barbara, students can gain real-world experience and expertise in the legal field. Students must successfully complete 36 credit hours with a grade of “C” or better in all courses, such as case management, civil litigation, paralegal ethics, law technology, and legal writing and communication. Certificate candidates that have little to no experience in the legal field are also awarded the chance to participate in a volunteer internship within a traditional or non-traditional legal setting.
7. Kaplan University
Kaplan University is an institution for higher learning that is highly committed to providing innovative undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education opportunities fully online. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Kaplan programs foster student learning to launch, further, or change careers within the convenience of the student’s own schedule. The university offers one of the few completely online certificate programs for graduate paralegals in the country. The Paralegal Post-baccalaureate online program focuses on building practical skills and real-world experience through live seminars, discussion boards, challenging research assignments, and one-on-one instructor interaction. As the largest provider of online legal studies, Kaplan University prepares students for effectively gaining a competitive edge for paralegal and legal assistant positions.
8. Montclair State University
Approximately 14 miles west of New York City, Montclair State University is located in the suburban setting of Montclair, New Jersey. Ranked as the 61st best college in the North, Montclair State is a private institution that offers students more than 300 excellent undergraduate and graduate programs to choose from. Considered New Jersey’s best public university, Montclair State provides opportunities to develop leadership skills and achieve professional goals within a vibrant campus community. In addition, the university offers affordable tuition rates, being named one of Forbes’ 25 best buy colleges in the Northeast.
The Department of Justice Studies provides a Paralegal Studies Certificate program for post-baccalaureate learning opportunities. As the only state college or university in New Jersey that hosts a paralegal studies program approved by the American Bar Association, paralegals earn the unique chance to further skills in litigation, research writing, criminal law procedures, and a seminar and internship. A certificate of completion is awarded to all students that fulfill all 21 credit hours, meet program standards, and maintain a GPA higher than 2.75.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for paralegals is expected to grow by 18 percent between 2010 and 2020. Employers are seeking to reduce costs, increase the efficiency of legal services, and rebuild their support staff of paralegals following the recession. Paralegals can find employment options with law firms, corporate legal departments, finance companies, banks, and various government agencies. In order to stand out against competition and land a rewarding profession as a paralegal, it is beneficial to further education by attending a graduate certificate program. These are the top programs in terms of ranking, curriculum, internships, accreditation, tuition, graduation rates, student support services, and top-notch experienced faculty.