Today, studying to become a paralegal is easier than ever with online programs becoming increasingly available. Non-traditional and traditional students alike now have the option of attending a strictly online college as well as the option of earning a degree from accredited, reputable, and even prestigious institutions across the country while having the flexibility of participating in a self-guided program over the internet. Below are some of the top online paralegal programs that are currently offered by top institutions that now offer online schools. The list is based on criteria such as institutional reputation, length of program history, and price.
1. George Mason University – Center for Legal Studies – Online Paralegal Certificate
Based on the on campus Paralegal Certificate Program that is been in existence for more than 27 years, the online paralegal certificate format makes completing the program available to students who are unable to physically attend paralegal schools on campus due to location or scheduling constraints. The nationally acclaimed certificate program is targeted for beginning and advanced workers in the legal field. The instruction style is practice-oriented, and students will complete coursework that is based on the areas in which paralegals are in greatest demand. The format of the online program is based on guided instruction, and students may interact directly with their classmates and instructor through email and an online discussion board. Students are allotted 14 weeks to complete the entire course. The George Mason Center for Legal Studies is a member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and American Association for Justice (AJA). The course fee is $1095.
2. Boston University Center for Professional Education – Online Certificate in Paralegal Studies
Also having been in existence for more than 20 years, Boston University offers an online version of the paralegal certification program that is available to students on its physical campus. The course spans 14 weeks and is taught by scholar teachers, who are legal practitioners themselves. The course is offered six times a year; the course fee is $3495.
3. Duke University – Online Global Paralegal Certificate Program
Despite its availability to students around the globe, the paralegal certificate program at Duke University is based on the United States legal system and guides students through studying traditional texts and online lecture notes in addition to taking mock exams, participating in writing labs, and utilizing reference materials for each of the 50 states. Students are also provided access to LexisNexis and Westlaw for legal research purposes. While students may work at their own pace, each student is assigned an instructor with whom they will work for the duration of the study period. The program’s instructors are U.S. attorneys. Students must complete 156 hours of study in order to receive the certificate. Tuition is $6,995. Books are not included in the tuition fee and cost from $500 to $625.
4. University of California-Berkeley – Online Paralegal Studies Certificate
The online paralegal certification course at UC Berkeley was designed by paralegals for aspiring paralegals. The university’s paralegal course teaches the State of California’s education requirements for processional paralegals over a period of six months, although the online format allows students to proceed through the program at their own pace. Students have a maximum of one year to complete the program. UC Berkeley also offers students the option of combining on campus and distance learning to create a hybrid program that meets their scheduling and attendance needs. The tuition fee for attending the hybrid program is $6,280 while the fee for online attendance is $7,000. Course materials are not included in the tuition fee. Students may enroll in the online program at anytime during the year as there is no set schedule for the course.
5. Eastern Kentucky University – Certificate, Associate’s, or Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
Eastern Kentucky University offers students three different options to pursue a program in paralegal studies based on their individual objectives as well as how soon they wish to enter the workforce. The Certificate in Paralegal Studies is aimed at students who have already earned a baccalaureate degree in another area. Students may enroll in the certificate program if they wish to earn certification and enter the workforce in as little as nine months. The program focuses on practical skills that will prepare students to assume a paralegal position in a law office. Students who have not previously earned a baccalaureate and wish to quickly enter the workforce as a paralegal may apply for the associate degree program. The associate degree program can generally be completed within 21 months of full-time enrollment. The bachelor’s degree is a liberal arts program that exposes students to a more in depth study of law in addition to preparing program participants for a career as a paralegal. Baccalaureate degree earners often use their degree as a springboard for pursuing advanced degrees in law and business. Tuition for the four year paralegal degree is $395 per credit hour. Students may incur additional fees for textbooks and other course materials. Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, EKU holds the highest level of accreditation available.
6. Globe University/Minnesota School of Business – Paralegal Certificate Prep, Bachelor of Science or Associate of Applied Science
Globe University is another institution that has taken its on campus paralegal offering and created an online version for distance learners. The online programs have the same focus and objectives as the campus-based versions. The bachelor’s paralegal degree program was designed in conjunction with legal employers to meet the minimum education
requirements of those who wish to hire candidates who have a four year degree. Students may choose from electives that cover a variety of specialized topics, including cyber forensics, fraud examination, accounting and medical terminology, and organizational behavior. The bachelor’s degree program also includes an internship. Students who wish to enter the workforce quickly and desire a two year degree may choose the associate degree program, which was also designed with the help of legal employers. Classes in the associate degree program are taught by experienced attorneys and paralegals, and students participate in an externship. The university also offers job seeking support via its career services department. Upon completing the paralegal program of choice, students typically take the National Association of Legal Assistants certification exam. Obtaining a favorable score further distinguishes job seekers from the field as they search for employment following program completion.
7. Kaplan University – Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies, Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies, and Online Pathway to Paralegal Postbaccalaureate Certificate
Kaplan University’s Online Pathway to Paralegal Postbaccalaureate Certificate program was designed for students who have previously earned a baccalaureate degree and wish to transition into the paralegal field. In the program, students learn to communicate effectively in a legal environment, conduct research, and evaluate legal sources. The program helps students build practical skills that will give them a competitive edge in the job market and after they have successfully secured employment. Courses consist of one-on-one feedback from instructors, discussion boards, and live seminars. Students must complete a total of 36 credits; total tuition cost is 13,356. The Associate of Applied Science and the Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies programs both offer a more detailed focus on teaching students legal terminology, legal writing, research, and law office management to prepare them for a career as a paralegal. Students may also participate in an internship as part of the associate’s degree program to gain work experience while also earning course credit. Upon program completion, students are eligible to take the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE), which is administered by the NFPA or the Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal examination, administered by the National Association of Legal Assistants. Students in the Associate’s program are required to complete 90 course hours. Tuition is $33,390. Bachelor’s degree students must complete 180 course credits; tuition for the program is $66,780.
Students have many options when it comes to preparing for a career as a paralegal. Working adults who simply wish to change career fields will typically opt for professional certificates that will enable them to earn the necessary credentials in a shorter amount of time. Students who have never earned a baccalaureate degree as well as those who may wish to eventually attend law school or business school are more likely to find associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs to be a better fit. Whether interested in attending an online college or researching online paralegal schools that are operated by reputable brick and mortar institutions, students are now more likely than ever to find what they need in terms of program duration, course fees, autonomy, and degree of personal support and attention from staff and instructors.
Check out our Top Online Paralegal Programs for 2015