You’re interested in the legal field, but you don’t want to go to a law school. You love the legal battles, but you don’t want to be at the forefront of the fight—you prefer the supporting role. So, how do you fast track your career, especially in the legal profession? You might answer you can’t. It’s almost impossible. Maybe you’re right, but you may be wrong either.

If you’re looking to get into the legal field, the fastest way is not the seven years and the hundreds of dollars you pour into law school. You become a paralegal and there’s a lot of schools for paralegal studies in New York City and other locations across the U.S. Some even offer paralegal courses online for the students’ convenience.

What is a Paralegal?

A paralegal is an employee in a law firm, corporation, government entity, or any other business entity, who handles legal work assigned to him or her on behalf of the lawyer. Paralegals are knowledgeable in a lot of the nuances of the legal profession, such as procedures and requirements. They are responsible for preparing drafts and other paperwork, following up on appointments of both lawyers and clients, conducting research, and any other work that may be required by the lead attorney in the service of their client.

So, how do you become a paralegal?

Education is Key

Nothing beats education. Maybe you’ve heard of the paralegal who works in the big law firm that drives a Bentley, and you’re inspired by that. The bottom line is simple: law firms will still look at your educational background. At the very least is a formal education of some sort. This level of knowledge can only be gained through a thorough education in paralegal studies.

But which route do you take, as there are more than one options? Let’s look at them.

Undergraduate Certificate in Paralegal Studies

This is the minimum available educational program on the market, which makes it the shortest. This is the basic of the basics—no extra classes; all courses are related only to the paralegal profession and legal field. Time spent would be from 6 months to a year—all hinged on how you, as the student, would schedule your classes. This consists of between 18 to 29 credits. You’ll learn legal research and writing, as well as studying laws of all types.

Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies

young female holding papers in the office

This is a comprehensive course of study. Employers are keen on hiring paralegals with this degree, as an associate’s degree provides you with basic education. This is distinct in that students are given general education college courses; therefore, giving them an extra edge as professionals. Furthermore, an associate’s degree may become a bachelor’s degree further down the road with continuing education.

This degree also improves the overall communication ability of the student—verbal and written, which plays an important role in law.

Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies

This is perhaps the highest form of education, with very big possibilities of being hired by the top law firms in the country. You’ll take 120 credits over four years. Being under a bachelor’s degree program also allows the student to choose a specialization.

Post-Degree Certificate in Paralegal Studies

Many people take this route in order to be a well-rounded professional. Others from a different field undertake this program as an avenue for a career change—becoming a paralegal.

Whatever route you choose, if you are interested in a career in the legal field, one of the best and fastest ways is to become a paralegal.