How to Become a Paralegal

Becoming a paralegal

Becoming a paralegal is a solid career choice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth for paralegals is projected to be 12 percent between 2020 and 2030. The current demand for paralegals far exceeds supply, especially in central New York State. It’s a rewarding field for those interested in law—and in fact, many law school students start out as paralegals. If you’re wondering: “How do I become a paralegal?” read on!

What is a Paralegal? What Does a Paralegal Do?

Paralegals perform specifically delegated legal work to support attorneys. This could include drafting legal documents for upcoming cases and trials, organizing files for legal proceedings, preparing affidavits and correspondence, interviewing clients and witnesses, and more. Most paralegals work for law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies—and many go on to specialize in a specific area of law, such as real estate, criminal law, estate planning, family law, labor law, litigation, or corporate law.

How Do I Become a Paralegal?

You may be asking yourself: How do I become a paralegal? The paralegal program at Tompkins Cortland Community College provides the course work and experience necessary to prepare you for employment as a paralegal or legal assistant

The program offers a basic orientation and academic exposure to a variety of subjects, including legal research and drafting, civil litigation, real estate law, wills and estate planning, family law, and legal ethics. You will complete an internship in a law office. There are also elective courses in criminal law, evidence, bankruptcy, and constitutional law.

The paralegal program at TC3 is a powerful pipeline for direct employment in the field, with an average of five candidate requests for every one graduate. In fact, most students receive job offers during their final semester internships, leaving even fewer candidates to meet the remaining demand.

Are Online Paralegal Degrees Available?

Yes! The TC3 paralegal program is offered exclusively online and asynchronous, providing ultimate convenience for new students and working professionals alike. TC3 is one of the few accredited colleges that has a long history of delivering quality paralegal instruction in an online capacity, with a successful 20-year track record.

Paralegal Education Requirements

A common question is: How long does it take to become a paralegal? And what about paralegal education requirements? At TC3, our 63-credit paralegal associate degree typically takes two years (or four semesters) to complete. If you have prior college credits, the A.A.S. degree may be completed in as little as two or three semesters.

What if I already have a bachelor's degree or some college credits? Can I become a paralegal faster? 

TC3 offers a special two-semester Paralegal Studies certificate program designed for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree. It is the ONLY program of its kind in the SUNY system, and one of very few such programs available in New York State, or even the country. It is an ideal option for working professionals who would like to enhance their employment and career opportunities. Even if you haven't completed a bachelor's degree, if you have some previous college credits you may be able to earn an A.A.S. in just three, or possibly even two, semesters. 

Microcredential Offering

Finally, TC3 offers a 12-credit Microcredential in Special Education Advocacy. Microcredentials are typically designed to teach specific, in-demand skills in collaboration with local employers or job needs. This four-course microcredential will prepare you to be an effective special education advocate on behalf of public school children – covering all requisite education law, disability needs, and legal standards. 

Paralegal State Requirements

Many students want to know: How do I become a paralegal in New York State? Or, what are the paralegal state requirements in nearby states such as New Jersey, Connecticut, or Pennsylvania? 

Statewide certifications for paralegals are not mandated in these states. In fact, the only state that currently regulates paralegals is California. However, there are several paralegal associations that encourage certification and sponsor exams. You’ll also find most firms require their paralegal job candidates to hold an associate degree or a certificate in paralegal studies.

Ready to explore a career as a paralegal? Consider a certificate, credential, or paralegal degree at Tompkins Cortland Community College.