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Why Consider a Certificate?

A professional certification allows you to set yourself apart from your colleagues. It demonstrates to employers that you have achieved a higher level of knowledge and competency in the legal profession. In the major of legal studies and associated disciplines, there are choices in master’s level certificates. In this post, we will outline some of them, as well as highlight why you may want to consider adding one or more to your academic profile.

Upon completion of your bachelor’s degree, you can earn a graduate certificate in a host of majors. You can tailor these to your current area of employment or enroll in a certificate to expand or gain knowledge in an unfamiliar subject. It can provide additional exposure to general and specific topics. There should be less time and expense associated with a graduate certificate. Also, many are available online for the convenience of not disrupting your personal and work life.

Cost

Attending graduate school on-campus or online is an expensive proposition. According to FinAid.org, the average price of a two-year master’s degree for students is between $30,000 and $120,000. The cost varies depending on the university and the master’s program itself. The average tuition of an MBA, for example, is $40,000. Although, the cost per credit hour for a certificate is usually the same as the master’s degree, there are fewer credits needed.

For example, Indiana University offers two graduate certificates at the rate of $385 per credit hour (excluding fees). They are 12 credits each, which computes to a total tuition cost of $4,620. One drawback to their program is the requirement of one semester in residence in Bloomington, Indiana. The two are:

Cybersecurity Law and Policy: This certificate is available at the Bloomington campus or online for students who want to broaden their education in law, policy, and computer science. You have the choice of two required core courses in Cybersecurity Law or Information Security Law.

Information Privacy Law and Policy: You will learn about the regulations that apply by law to matters concerning information privacy. The subject has come to the forefront with the amount of accessible personal and corporate data. You will study free speech and privacy, privacy in law enforcement and national security issues.

Reduced Time

You can enroll in an accelerated master’s degree programs that you can finish within 12-14 months. However, the norm is 24 months. Two years are considerably longer than some certificates an online 24- week program. One such program requires that you should anticipate spending 3-4 hours per credit per week on coursework.

The above example refers to Seton Hall’s 100% online graduate certificates that also have the benefit of five start dates per year. Also, their legal education programs may appeal to professionals currently working in the middle to upper levels of management. However, there is no prior experience or legal background required to apply.

Seton Hall offers five online graduate certificates as part of their law programs. They will satisfy those with a legal interest in medical device compliance, intellectual property, financial institutions, healthcare, and privacy law.

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Paralegals and Legal Assistants

We highlight this category because there were over a quarter of a million (285,600-May 2017) employed in this occupation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Moreover, the projected growth rate is 15% or the change in 41,800 jobs over ten years (2016-2026). These professionals may benefit financially from the addition of a graduate certificate. The average salary for paralegals was $50,410 in 2017 per the BLS (based on an Associate’s degree). The upper range of this job category is around $80,000.

The University of Washington offers a graduate-level certificate in Paralegal Studies. The curriculum will enhance the knowledge and skills of current and future paralegals. The courses expand on subjects you may be familiar with from an undergraduate degree in a related discipline. To be eligible for this certificate, you have to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited learning institution.

Individuals preferring an online program in their state of residence may have limited choices, meaning a residency program is the only option. Alternatively, you must meet other requirements. For example, Mississippi College stipulates that you will need to take at least 15 hours at their College. Their online paralegal studies certificate consists of 27 hours. Candidates for the program must also have a bachelor’s degree.

Accreditation

As you search for potential graduate certificate programs, concentrate on schools that have their accreditation. There are certificates approved by the respective state bar and other accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA sets standards that a law school must achieve before the law program receives approval. You can emphasize this point during job interviews. Some employers may prefer that you earned your certificate at an accredited school.

Additional Resources

What degree do I need to be a Paralegal?

Why should I consider a degree in Law?

20 Non-Law Firm Jobs with a Law Degree

What is the Benefit of a Degree in Paralegal Studies vs. Legal Studies?

Why should I consider a degree in Intellectual Property Law?

What is a Master’s Degree in Legal Studies?

What is the Difference in Legal Studies and a Law Degree?