Do I Have to Get an Accredited Paralegal Degree Online to be a paralegal?

Earning an accredited paralegal degree online is an excellent stepping stone towards a job as a paralegal, and perhaps even a good entry point into eventually attending law school and becoming a lawyer. But you might wonder if an accredited paralegal degree online is really necessary to get a paralegal job. The answer is that an accredited degree is preferred, but not an absolute must have.

What a Degree Means for You in this Field

Likely you know that being a lawyer requires earning various college degrees with a culminating Juris Doctorate degree. Then, you take the American Bar Association examination, usually called simply, "The Bar Exam." After you successfully pass this exam you are legally allowed to practice law as a fully fledged lawyer. As a lawyer you can research legal precedence, write briefs, counsel clients, present at trial, negotiate and so much more.

Many legal offices, of course, employ paralegals to do much of the "grunt work" of the legal industry. These paralegals are usually significantly less educated than the actual lawyers, but are trained to conduct research and write briefs, assisting the lawyers in preparing for court hearings, mediation and such. Paralegals are not required to have any specific education or to be certified through an examination. Anyone can be a paralegal.

That said, most law firms do hire only people who have completed some level of education to be a paralegal. There are a variety of levels of education, from simple certificates that can be earned in a few months to a fully accredited paralegal degree online.  Many paralegal programs are not accredited. Many are accredited.

What Type of Accreditation Is Available for an Accredited Paralegal Degree Online?

Usually when we talk about online schools being accredited we are talking about regional accreditation, that is a review and approval by one of the six regional divisions of the Higher Learning Commission, a U.S. governmental organization. This type of accreditation is one to look for when shopping for an accredited paralegal degree online. But, when it comes to an accredited paralegal degree online, the American Bar Association also accredits programs, certifying them as complying with basic standards developed by the Bar.

What an Accredited Paralegal Degree Online Offers

One would assume that all programs purporting to train one for a career as a paralegal would be well developed and truly help a person learn the skills necessary for that career. However, assuming can be dangerous and that is where accreditation comes in. By choosing an accredited paralegal online program you can be certain that the program has met rigorous standards either set by the Unites States Higher Learning Commission or by the American Bar Association.

Likely your best option is to choose an accredited paralegal degree online that is accredited by both groups. Many law firms will be more impressed by your credentials if you can tell them that you graduated from a Bar Association approved program. Furthermore, choosing a school that is regionally accredited is not only prestigious but also will ensure that you can transfer some of your courses to another program if you decide to switch fields or even if you decide to go on law school in the hope of become an actual lawyer. Certainly if you have feared that online degrees are worthless, you definitely want to stick to an accredited program so you can be more confident in the value.

Have you looked into any paralegal programs that are NOT accredited in any way?

Share what you learned, and your general impressions of these programs, with others in our online forum.