A paralegal certificate is one option future paralegals have to gain the education needed to work in the profession. The American Bar Association (ABA) approves paralegal education programs which may assist students in finding quality paralegal education. The ABA approval process prohibits totally online paralegal certificate programs. However, several programs offer one or more required paralegal certificate classes online and a few schools offer completion through distance learning using interactive television or webcam technology.
According to the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), paralegal certificate programs are usually designed for students who already hold an Associate or Bachelor degree. The ABA implemented guidelines in 2008 addressing online components to paralegal certificate programs. To achieve and maintain ABA approval, institutions must offer and require students to complete the equivalent of ten semester credits in a traditional classroom setting and those classes offered online have to meet certain requirements. The ABA considers video interactive instruction equivalent to a traditional classroom.
General Certificate Programs
ABA maintains a list of all ABA approved paralegal programs in the United States and Washington D.C. on its website including 148 paralegal certificate programs.
Online Option Implied
Some institutions imply the availability of online paralegal program components with their website language. The University of California at Irvine states at least half of its course requirements, 150 hours or 15 units, must be completed in a traditional classroom. Similarly, Roger Williams University in Providence, Rhode Island; Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington; and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Wisconsin, state a certain portion of their programs must be completed on campus or in face-to-face formats.
Confirmed Partial Online Options
The websites of the following institutions state definitively that one or more paralegal certificate classes are offered online: Phoenix College in Phoenix, Arizona; Manor College in Jenkintown, Oklahoma; Widener Law Center in Wilmington, Delaware; Illinois Central College in East Peoria, Illinois; South Suburban College in Holland, Illinois; Peirce College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Ann Arundal Community College in Arnold, Maryland.
Interactive Distance Learning
At the Center for Advanced Legal Studies in Houston, Texas, students can complete their paralegal certificate in ten months with its trademarked Online Interactive Instruction system. Classes in the Online Interactive Instruction system use live teaching in real time via webcam, where students can interact with the instructors and other students. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in its namesake city in Indiana offers paralegal certificate programs through a flexible distance education program via the Woods External Degree component of the institution, acknowledging ABA approval mandates at least ten hours of its legal specialty courses are taken face-to-face.