A variety of degree programs are available for paralegals, including associate's degrees and certificates. There are also bachelor and master degree programs available, though they are not as common as associate degree programs. Over 250 paralegal programs are approved by the American Bar Association, but there are around 1,000 such programs available in the United States.
Associate degree programs in paralegal studies are most commonly offered through community colleges. Such programs are two years in length and many are available entirely online. Associate degree programs provide a well-rounded education with an emphasis on legal studies, such as computerized legal research.
Certificate programs generally are offered to students who already have a college degree. The Minnesota Paralegal Institute, for example, offers a short-term intensive certification program.
Voluntary certification is something many paralegals choose to pursue after completing a program, though it is not required for paralegals to be employed. Certification is offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), National Association for Legal Professionals (NALS), and the American Alliance of Paralegals (AAP).