What Are the Different Types of Paralegal Qualifications?

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers
A paralegal may continue to take classes throughout the course of their employment.
A paralegal may continue to take classes throughout the course of their employment.

Like any job in the legal field, there are a few qualifications required of paralegals. One of the most basic necessities involves education. Paralegal training typically takes anywhere from two to four years, depending on whether the program offers an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. Once a degree is obtained, experience through either an entry-level job or an internship may be helpful. Certification in this industry also is encouraged if one is looking to find work in this field.

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

To work as a paralegal, some type of post-secondary education is typically necessary. One of the most common routes involves getting a bachelor's degree in any subject, though some schools have a paralegal program that can be followed up by obtaining a paralegal studies certificate. It often is possible to get an associate's degree in paralegal studies, which usually takes about two years and is typically considered sufficient to get a job in this field. Some job seekers can improve their chances of a position by getting a master's degree, but this is not among the necessary paralegal qualifications. This is because those willing to put in the time for this type of schooling may be better off earning a law degree to have even more opportunities in the legal field, including becoming a lawyer.

Paralegals may have on-the-job experience, or academic certifications and degrees.
Paralegals may have on-the-job experience, or academic certifications and degrees.

While education is one of the main paralegal qualifications, not everyone in this industry can obtain this type of position just out of college. For this reason, many college students are urged to get an internship at a law firm to gain experience and learn the skills that will typically be used in this career. It is, however, possible for some to become a paralegal without prior experience, because those who do particularly well in college subjects related to the legal field are sometimes attractive to employers despite a lack of work history.

Those who are curious about additional paralegal qualifications that may increase their chances of getting a job may be interested in gaining certification in this field. There are several organizations that offer voluntary paralegal certification, and many require passing an exam and participating in continuing education to receive the certificate. They also often require that applicants work in this field for a particular number of years, so most people seeking to get advanced paralegal qualifications only aim for certification after they have some work experience. In most cases, despite not being among required paralegal qualifications, becoming certified in this field is often advised for those who want to increase both their desirability and pay among employers.

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    • A paralegal may continue to take classes throughout the course of their employment.
      By: Franck Boston
      A paralegal may continue to take classes throughout the course of their employment.
    • Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.
      By: Gina Sanders
      Employers are more likely to hire paralegals who are certified.
    • Paralegals may have on-the-job experience, or academic certifications and degrees.
      By: George Wada
      Paralegals may have on-the-job experience, or academic certifications and degrees.