Paralegal Training, Schooling and Certification Options

Schooling? Going back to school isn’t always the easiest decision to make, or even a feasible one for many people. Still, many people wish they could capitalize on the recession by using it to facilitate a career change.  Most people are held back by mistakenly thinking that stable industries that are hiring require complex degrees or years of training before awarding you with an entry-level position.

Though a certain amount of four year and two year programs exist for students in college interested in paralegal training, you shouldn’t worry about attending the best paralegal schools to break into the industry, especially if time and money are of concern. Many vocational schools or even smaller certification programs can get you as ready for the switch as well as the best paralegal schools in just 3 months time.  Additionally, American paralegal organizations offer certifications that will allow you to avoid time and debt spent on the best paralegal schools when combined with good internships.

A paralegal career has as many options of specialization as the law itself.  Almost all law firms will employ paralegals on their staff to assist in cases and the industry is booming despite our recession.  According to the US Department of Labor, the paralegal industry is expected to grow by 28% in the next 7 years and there are already well over 200,000 paralegal jobs out there.  The average paralegal salary earned by graduates of the best paralegal schools is almost 50 thousand dollars a year, with the middle 50 percent earning between 36 and 64 thousand annually. Paralegals performing just about every task a lawyer would perform except for direct client interaction or court proceedings, which are prohibited for paralegals to execute by law.

According to US Department of Labor statistics, about 75% of paralegals were employed by private law firms in 2008.  The best paralegal schools or certification programs can also land jobs with corporations or certain federal offices as an alternative to the common working environment. Paralegals can advance by switching to other law firms that do more elaborate research or may require more experienced assistants. Obtaining certifications that help them stand out can earn them better jobs.

The best paralegal schools will take up to 2 years, offering specialized associates degrees for their time commitment, but many accredited programs can certify paralegals as quickly as 3-6 months.  Certification in conjunction with an internship is often all it takes to get that first paying position.  Many internships are available, so choosing one in a section of law that interests you can greatly improve your chances of working in that area of law after you complete your training.

Governing bodies and groups like the National Association of Law Assistants and the American Association of Paralegals offer certification for those on the paralegal career path as well. These are fairly easily obtained as well, as it’s usually only a matter of about 50 hours of course work and a 2-day exam that will get you certified.