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Is Paralegal Education Necessary?

by Kent Pinkerton

Paralegals help make lawyers look organized. They typically sort, prepare, photocopy, and index documents, while also interviewing witnesses or conducting hearings. Most beginning paralegals should have a bachelor’s degree, according to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).

Roughly 50 percent of paralegals do, with about 25 percent having two-year associates degrees. However, trends indicate that most potential employers expect entry-level paralegals to have a four-year college degree. Any additional training a paralegal might have, whether it be in medicine, another science, or social work, will help a paralegal to specialize and possibly make more money.

Programs exist to train paralegals. NFPA recommends a formal paralegal education program, which approximately 84 percent of current paralegals have. Training programs consist of 24 semester hours in legal studies. NFPA offers the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam to establish and recognize high standards in the paralegal profession. In order to qualify for the exam, a paralegal must have a bachelor’s degree, have completed an accredited paralegal program, and have at least two years of paralegal experience. Paralegals who pass the exam are recognized professionally as a “PACE Registered Paralegal.”

For a small fee, a potential paralegal can obtain a directory of paralegal education programs from the NFPA.

The amount of training needed for a paralegal job can depend on the organization for which the paralegal will work. It may be useful to contact local law firms about their paralegal hiring practices. Some positions require a paralegal certificate, which requires additional training after a four-year degree program. Online directories allow registered users to search for hiring law firms, and most local libraries have a copy of Martindale Hubbell, an index of every lawyer in the country organized by city and law firm.

In general, the level of education needed to become a paralegal depends the kind of paralegal work desired and the length of a paralegal career. A recent college graduate, for example, who wants to be a paralegal in order to help her chances of getting into law school, may not want to seek additional training. A person wishing to become a career paralegal, on the other hand, would benefit from the additional training.

Paralegals provides detailed information about paralegal jobs, schools, training, courses, certificates, and services. For more information go to and/or visit its sister site at for related information.

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