With 271,320 paralegals working in the United States (source: BLS.gov 2013), and projected growth of 15% to 21% over the next 10 years (source: O*Net Online) the paralegal profession has a bright future. Paralegals work in a variety of areas including public arenas, government offices, for corporations, and in law offices.
Many different schools offer a paralegal curriculum. However, there are not state requirements for paralegal licensing, which means that there are no standards for educational curriculum in the field. It is possible to become a paralegal without any type of formal education, but most of the time getting a job is much easier with some form of educational background.
When you are searching for a paralegal school for your education, the first thing that should be considered is whether the school is approved by the ABA ( American Bar Association). The school of choice may also be approved by the AAFPE (American Association for Paralegal Education). The school that you choose for your education will directly affect your chances for employment.
Once you have a list of schools that is approved by either of the above organizations, it is essential that you look over the programs that each school offers very carefully. Some schools will offer only a certificate program, while others may offer an associate, bachelor or even a master’s degree program. You will want to find a school that offers the level of education you desire in your area.
When looking at schools, there are several things a quality paralegal program will have available. This includes a legal research library, along with a quality computer lab. There should be a facility for working with students that have disabilities as well as a curriculum that provides balance between practical job skills and legal theories. There should be opportunities for practical applications and internships as well.
The other thing that you will need to consider when searching for a paralegal school is the type of law that you wish to work in. If you want to specialize in a certain area of the law such as immigration law, corporate law, environmental law, or tax law, or a number of others, it is important to make sure that the school that you choose offers you the ability to specialize in your area of choice.
Choosing your Program
Once you have researched the different programs available, your budget may be your next guide. Different programs will have different fees and costs to attend. Make sure that you choose a quality program that is within your budget. Remember, just because a program is expensive does not necessarily mean it is the best.
It is also good to consider online programs as well. One of the benefits of taking courses online is the flexibility of the program. There are many great online paralegal programs available as well.