How do I Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Program?

Felicia Dye
Felicia Dye
Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.
Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.

Look for a paralegal studies program in the jurisdiction where you plan to work. Assess the reputation of the school, and if you plan to further your education determine if there are established transfer programs. If you have decided which field of law you would like to work in, try to find a program that will allow you to specialize. Also assess the credentials of the professors in a given program and choose one with a faculty that has practiced law.

There are various factors to consider when seeking a paralegal studies program.
There are various factors to consider when seeking a paralegal studies program.

Consider where you plan to work when choosing a paralegal studies program. Many of these programs focus on and qualify a person to work in a particular jurisdiction. For example, in the U.S. if a person is interested in being a paralegal in Virginia, it is best for her to study in Virginia. A degree earned in North Carolina may make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to get a job.

For a number of reasons, it is important to consider the institution where a paralegal studies program is being offered. To begin with, you will be studying in a field where potential employers tend to focus on the quality of your education, so your school’s reputation is important. Also, some schools make better options if you are planning to continue your education because they have established transfer relationships with other institutions where you can receive higher degrees.

It is best to choose a school that has multiple programs. If you are already sure about the area of law that you want to work in, choose a specialized paralegal studies program. This will make you a more attractive candidate for a job with a lawyer or firm in that field of law. If you do not have a preference and you choose an institution with more than one program, you should be able to change later if you feel the need.

Be aware of the type of paralegal studies program that you enter. Understand that there is a major difference between a certificate program and a degree program. Certificate programs are usually much shorter and often more lenient academically. They also tend to be less useful. Most employers are looking for individuals with degrees, and many will not consider those with certificates as qualified candidates.

Consider who will be teaching you. Usually a potential student can find out which professors are staffed for a paralegal studies program. It is worth the time to review those individuals’ credentials, which may be available in the program guide or on the school’s website. You should try to choose a program that has some lawyers or former lawyers. These individuals have a better ability to prepare you for the job than professors who have only academic experience.

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