How to Prepare for a Career As a Paralegal

A paralegal, also called a legal assistant, completes tasks assigned by a supervising lawyer. For example, a paralegal helps a lawyer prepare for opening and closing arguments of trials and conducts legal research. Also, a paralegal drafts pleadings and motions. However, before you can assist a lawyer, you must know how to prepare for a career as a paralegal.


  1. Image titled Prepare for a Career As a Paralegal Step 1
    Seek post secondary education. You have 3 options depending on your prior education.
    • An associate's degree in paralegal studies is a 2-year program offered at community and junior colleges. The program combines paralegal and elective courses.
    • A bachelor's degree in paralegal studies is a 4-year program offered at colleges and universities. The program requires you take a combination of paralegal, general education and elective courses. You may have to complete an internship at a law firm.
    • A paralegal studies certificate is an option if you already have a bachelor's degree in another field. The certificate is offered at community colleges and universities. The paralegal certificate courses provide you with intensive training in the field that can last from a few months to 1 year. You're only required to take paralegal courses. Some programs may require you to complete an internship.
  2. Image titled Prepare for a Career As a Paralegal Step 2
    Meet with paralegals.
    • Join local paralegal organizations and associations to network with paralegals.
    • Talk with experienced paralegals about the job duties, any employment opportunities and information about advancement.
  3. Image titled Prepare for a Career As a Paralegal Step 3
    Earn a certificate in paralegal studies. The certification is different from a post secondary certificate. You have 3 certification options.
    • The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers 2 paralegal certificates: Certified Paralegal (CP) and Certified Legal Assistant (CLA). The prerequisites for the certifications are a combination of experience and education. You must complete a 2-day test to obtain the certifications.
    • The American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. (AAPI) offers an American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) designation. You must have about 5 years of job and educational experience and meet other qualifications to take the test.
    • The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offers the Registered Paralegal (RP) designation. However, you must have approximately 2 years of work experience to take the Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination (PACE).
    • The certification options are voluntary. Therefore, you don't have to earn the certifications to obtain a job as a paralegal. However, becoming a certified paralegal may increase your paralegal employment options.


  • A master's degree in paralegal studies is an option if you're interested in additional training. The degree, however, is not a requirement to obtain, keep or advance to a paralegal position.
  • Post secondary education is not required to obtain a job. However, most employers prefer a paralegal applicant with post secondary training and education in paralegal studies.

Article Info

Categories: Legal Careers