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Start Your Career with a Paralegal Certificate Online

Published on: Sep 29, 2023

Online legal education opportunities have surged due to technological advancements and a changing world. It is now easier than ever to complete your education from anywhere in the world and on your schedule. You can expand your knowledge and pursue career opportunities from the comfort of your home. Online classes are a great way to take courses at your convenience, with flexible options and plenty of online resources. 

This article will introduce you to the benefits of pursuing your paralegal certificate online and highlight important factors to help you make an informed decision, such as the importance of accreditation, what employers think of online paralegal certificates, how long the process takes, and the advantages to taking your courses online.

What Will You Learn in an Online Paralegal Certification Program?

Online paralegal programs feature comprehensive curriculums that teach students a wide range of legal courses they will utilize in the field, such as legal research and legal writing, contract law, civil litigation, family law, legal ethics, tort law, criminal law, and other areas of law. Each paralegal course will expand students' legal knowledge, skill, and provide students with more knowledge about the legal system. Paralegal certificate students will receive proper training and a strong education in legal principles that will prepare them for a demanding career as a paralegal or legal assistant at a law firm or government agency. Students will also learn practical skills development that will prepare them to work in a fast-paced environment with the knowledge to manage law firm case files, assist their attorneys with trial preparation, and draft a wide range of legal documents. 

An online paralegal certification program provides students with an inside view of the legal profession and gives them the tools to succeed in their paralegal career path. Students learn how to communicate with their legal teams, which provides them with a comprehensive understanding of professional responsibility and legal ethics, which is increasingly important in the ever-changing landscape. 

Boston University has published an 8-video series to YouTube which provides a preview to their online certificate in paralegal studies curriculum.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Paralegal Certification?

The time it takes to get an online paralegal certification can vary depending on the program chosen, the amount of time a student can devote to their studies, and the flexibility of the courses. Online paralegal programs are designed to be flexible and tailored to allow students to set their own pace. Many students have other commitments, such as work and family, so it may take some longer than others. Most students can obtain their online paralegal certification in as little as 14 weeks or up to two years.

Students should enroll in a program that best fits their schedules and work towards their certification part-time or full-time. Many students need more time to obtain their certificate and may opt to go slower and work around their schedules.

How Do You Know if an Online Paralegal Certificate Program is Right for You?

If you are considering enrolling in an online paralegal certificate program, you must consider many factors, such as your availability, comfort level with technology, and your time-management skills. Online programs differ from in-person programs in that students must possess self-discipline and be entirely responsible for their own progress. 

Determining your schedule and how much time you can dedicate to participating in online classes, discussions, and paralegal coursework is an important criteria. While an online paralegal certificate program may be flexible to work with your schedule, it still requires a meaningful commitment.

Online courses require a minimum amount of technical expertise, though students must gauge their proficiency and ensure they have a reliable internet connection and a comfortable place to study. If you don’t have a quiet workplace, you will want to find a place you can use, such as a coffee shop, library, or office space.

a paralegal certificate student typing on their laptop

What are Some Advantages of an Online Paralegal Program?

You may wonder if you should attend a traditional university in person experience or an online paralegal program. Online learning is perfect for students who want a legal education but have jobs or family obligations that take priority. Flexibility and freedom are hard to beat when the other option is attending classes in person.

Another advantage of being an online student is the cost. Attending online classes can be more cost-effective than in-person learning. You can save money by not dining out or picking up caffeine, especially if you are studying from home. Online courses feature extensive digital libraries right at your fingertips, as well as textbooks, legal databases, and online research tools that are usually freely available to students.

Many online paralegal programs attract teaching assistants and adjunct professors from different locations and legal practice backgrounds that can provide students with a wealth of information that enriches their learning experience.

How Will Potential Employers View an Online Paralegal Degree?

The question of how potential employers and attorneys view an online paralegal degree has been debated since online learning was introduced. Employers in general have an increasingly favorable view of online paralegal degrees, especially those from accredited programs. There may be circumstances that prevent you from attending a traditional in-person program such as family commitments or other employment, and the stigma that some employers had even just a decade ago toward online education seems to be easing. Employers value the training and experience gained from online education if it is from a well- respected, fully-accredited institution in the legal field that maintains high standards. Further, many businesses are moving staff into remote-first staffing models and may be more open to hiring remote workers with an online paralegal degree.

This is where research into online paralegal programs proves helpful by choosing a program with a stellar reputation. Students should gain practical legal experience through internships and externships to strengthen their resumes before starting their new careers. Conducting research helps new paralegals gain the necessary knowledge and exposes them to different areas of law to see which ones interest them.

Where Can You Find Out Which Online Paralegal Certification Programs Are Accredited?

Accredited online paralegal certification programs are easy to locate. One source many use to check the accreditation of an online program is the American Bar Association (ABA), an accrediting body in the legal field. Anyone can check a program's accreditation by going to the ABA website, which lists accredited paralegal programs from universities and online programs. 

You can also search regional accrediting associations such as the Higher Learning Commission or the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and College to find a list of accredited online paralegal certification programs. These organizations accredit institutions based on their overall educational quality, which allows future students to make informed decisions when choosing a paralegal program. Attending an accredited paralegal program provides students with more opportunities such as the ability to participate in federally funded programs and graduates will also qualify to further their education at other accredited institutions. You can also review the Department of Education’s (DOE) or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation’s (CHEA) website for lists of other accrediting bodies.

What is the Importance of Accreditation for Online Paralegal Certification Programs?

Accredited online paralegal certification programs are evaluated by accrediting bodies in areas such as faculty, program curriculum, student support programs, and graduate outcomes. This designation ensures that programs are consistent and continually strive to improve their students and shows that the programs meet established standards set by the accrediting institutions. Program accreditation helps students in other areas beyond certification, such as the availability of scholarships or financial aid, student assistance, and even employer reimbursement programs. 

Further, students attending an accredited online paralegal certification program may be able to transfer their credits to another program. For example, credits earned toward a certificate program at an accredited school can be used to satisfy some of the requirements for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in legal studies.

What are the Benefits of Being a Certified Paralegal?

A paralegal certification gives you an advantage in the legal field. If you want to call yourself a paralegal in California, you will have to meet that state’s educational or experience requirements. Additionally, if you work in Utah or Washington, you may need to obtain licensure in those states depending on the specific job duties you will be performing. 

Although being a formally certified paralegal may not be required, it does carry with it certain benefits. Becoming a certified paralegal demonstrates many of the skills that employers find desirable in job candidates such as a strong work ethic and self-management skills. Being a certified paralegal shows you understand the value of education, which is incredibly important in the legal field. 

Paralegal certification is a great way to market yourself as committed to your career as a professional and competent paralegal. While being a certified paralegal does not guarantee job placement, it does a great job of expanding your potential opportunities in the legal field, such as in a law firm, government agency, or other career path.

Studies show that certified paralegals earn higher salaries when compared to paralegals without certification. One of the reasons why certified paralegals make a higher salary than non-certified paralegals is due to the fact that certification is not required and obtaining a certification shows to employers that you wish to learn more voluntarily. Certification may also allow you to negotiate better pay and benefits with law firms and other organizations. 

How Much Does Accreditation Affect the Cost of Online Paralegal Certification Programs?

Accredited online paralegal certification programs often have higher prices than non-accredited programs since the university program must meet specific standards, which can raise the cost of education. Students at accredited schools can access state and federal financial aid, giving these schools incentives to keep their tuition high and few reasons to lower their costs. Students foot the bill, maintaining their accreditation via higher tuition costs. Paralegal students who attend an accredited university approved for Title IV funding in the U.S. have many financial aid options such as Unsubsidized Loans, Federal Pell Grants, and Direct Subsidized Loans.

Also, many universities offer financial aid that can assist students with the costs of attending. However, pursuing an accredited online paralegal certification program offers you some benefits over an unaccredited program. 

What Can You Do with a Paralegal Certificate Earned Online?

Completing your paralegal certificate online opens up a wide variety of career options in the legal field. You can follow a traditional paralegal career path, work in a law firm or government agency, go an alternate route and work in non-profit organizations, or become a freelance paralegal and take advantage of the gig economy—many paralegals who have earned their paralegal certificate online work remote jobs from anywhere.

An online paralegal certificate alone may not be a guarantee to obtain your dream career; you will have to work hard to make connections with individuals in the industry, especially since you are not attending class in-person. Still, a paralegal certificate can provide you with opportunities that may not have been available to you otherwise. 

Recommended Online Paralegal Certificate Programs

How We Selected the Best Online Paralegal Certification Programs

We evaluated online paralegal certification programs across the U.S. and used an assessment that included cost, course offerings, graduate satisfaction, and other metrics. We have selected 7 top programs based on our evaluation. 

We considered specific characteristics that played a significant role in our evaluation process. These factors included:

  • the price of the program,

  • availability of scholarships,

  • access to preparatory courses,

  • flexibility in study options (such as self-paced learning),

  • job placement assistance, and

  • partnerships with prominent employers in the legal industry.

Our top picks surpassed the competition in multiple areas, such as allowing students to enroll part-time or full-time, offering student aid to pay for enrollment, and offering self-paced study options for busy students. 


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About the Authors

Written by:

Kevin Salzman, Esq.

Kevin Salzman is the elected county prosecutor for Ford County, Kansas. Prior to taking office in 2017, he worked for six years as an assistant county attorney across southwest Kansas, prosecuting crimes ranging from traffic offenses to first-degree murder cases. Kevin got started in legal content writing in 2014 and enjoys the opportunities it affords to explore new and changing areas of the law. He believes solid content writing helps people understand the law and how it can help them overcome the challenges they face. He is a 2010 graduate of St. Louis University School of Law.

Kevin Salzman portrait

Kevin Salzman, Esq.

Contributing Author

Education: St. Louis University School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Criminal Prosecution

Reviewed by:

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Ryan P. Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business law. 

Law Licensures

  • New Jersey

  • Pennsylvania (inactive)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

Ryan Duffy

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Editorial Lead

Education: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Estate Planning