The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
I sometimes get email from people interested in a paralegal career, asking if they should get a paralegal certificate (often online) versus an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. I always tell them to thoroughly research the educational requirements that area legal employers prefer before making a decision – and that many employers today are looking for paralegals with four-year degrees.
My concern for those individuals seriously considering certificate programs (which are very different from becoming a certified paralegal) is that they may spend a great deal of money and time to earn a piece of paper that isn’t recognized or valued in the legal field.
Journalist Barry Yeoman discusses the pitfalls of some for-profit colleges in “School of Hard Knocks,” which appears in the June 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping. With so many for-profit career colleges aggressively advertising paralegal programs, I’m sharing several of his invaluable tips for protecting yourself here.
Yeoman recommends that potential students:
- Research the school at the Department of Education’s College Navigator (http://www.nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/). Low graduation rates and high default loan rates might mean dissatisfied students and unemployed graduates.
- Ask the school recruiter or admissions counselor about graduation and placement rates as well.
- Contact potential employers in the area where you hope to work and ask if they hire graduates of the school.
- If you are planning to continue your education, such as earning a bachelor’s degree, find out if your course credits will transfer to the institutions you are interested in attending.
- Read every single piece of paper before you commit yourself in writing to the school’s program – and tuition payments.
Yeoman also suggests that you explore the possibility of pursuing your training at the local community college or state university, a recommendation I strongly agree with, especially if area legal employers view the paralegal program favorably and frequently hire graduates.Bottom line? Do your homework before enrolling in any paralegal program.Related Post: A Word to the Wise about Online “Legal Assistant Certification”