Before choosing a school or program, you should think about your schedule and how much time you have available. By understanding how many hours you can allocate to your studies each day and week, you can find a suitable degree program and delivery format.
Online paralegal degrees often offer flexible scheduling options, including asynchronous, part-time, and evening and weekend classes. These formats help accommodate working and busy students. Full-time and accelerated programs suit learners with more open schedules and those who want to graduate faster.
You should also consider how your study schedule and your course’s delivery format may impact your experience. Asynchronous programs provide more flexibility but less classroom engagement than synchronous programs, and they require self-motivation and time management skills. Accelerated programs finish more quickly, but they involve a more intensive time commitment.
Look at Accreditation
All prospective college students must consider accreditation. Institutional accreditation verifies that a college or university provides quality education; accreditation status also determines which schools can offer federal financial aid. Official accrediting organizations hold recognition from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.
Paralegal degrees do not require programmatic accreditation, but program approval by a reputable organization in the field may indicate better student experiences and outcomes. Accreditation from the American Bar Association demonstrates that a paralegal program meets high industry standards. Similarly, institutional members of the American Association for Paralegal Education can access support resources to improve their paralegal programs.
Some paralegal programs prepare students for professional certifications, such as the Paralegal Core Competencies Exam, Paralegal Advanced Certification Exam or the Certified Paralegal Exam. If you plan to pursue a professional certification for paralegals, consider programs that target your desired credential.
Consider Your Future Goals
Along with certifications, think about your desired postgraduate path when choosing a program. If you plan to continue your studies in grad school, you might choose a program that emphasizes research. You may even find a paralegal program that offers a pathway to a master of legal studies or a JD degree.
If your interests point you to the workforce, you could look for a practical program with an internship or a hands-on component. Look at course offerings as well, noting which programs cover topics that interest you. You may prefer an interdisciplinary program or one with a specialization in your desired paralegal niche, such as criminal law, estate planning or e-discovery.