If you enjoy research and critical thinking and you’re interested in the law, you’re probably starting to wonder if being a paralegal is the right job move for you. While there’s more than one path to becoming a paralegal, education is generally the preferred start these days. With education, you’ll have an advantage over the other applicants in the eyes of prospective employers because you’ll have some of the knowledge and skills needed for the job before you even begin.

The Center for Legal Studies offers education programs for people who want to become paralegals and are ready to take their first step on this new road. Keep reading to discover what is available at the Center so you can set yourself on the road to success in this career path as soon as possible.

Paralegal Certificate

With the Paralegal Certificate program, you’ll receive a professional paralegal certificate from the college or university you chose to take the course through at the Center. Available institutions include the University of Arizona, Adams State University and Chicago State University.

Formats for this program are flexible and vary by school. The online course, for example, is 14 weeks long and can be completed from your own home. With the six- or eight-week live lecture format, you’ll receive instruction on campus from qualified legal professionals. With the DVD option, you will receive a course DVD and access to an instructor via phone and email for questions, and you’ll have 12 months to complete your studies. This format is best for those who can’t do another format because of time and location restraints. Finally, the text-only option is a full printout of the online format materials, and as with the DVD format, you’ll have access to an instructor and 12 months to complete the course.

Advanced Paralegal Certificate

Offered by more than 100 schools, the Advanced Paralegal Certificate program allows you to build up your knowledge in the field with classes on specialized parts of contemporary law once you have received your Paralegal Certificate. This will help you set yourself above the competition and can even increase your salary potential and marketability. Once you complete a minimum of six advanced topics, you will receive the Certificate of Completion for this program. This certificate is available in the online format, although some schools do offer the text format. In the online format, each topic takes seven weeks to complete, for a minimum of 42 weeks of instruction before completion. With the text format, you must complete your studies within 12 months.

While you are waiting to begin a program at the Center for Legal Studies, you can work on some of the other skills you will need to develop and sharpen as a paralegal. Oral communication, for example, is really important because you will frequently speak with clients, attorneys and other professionals in your daily job. Practice public speaking and work on your communication skills whenever you can so you are as strong as possible in this area.

Your writing must also be strong, as you’ll often be presenting written communication. Study online writing resources and brush up on your grammar. If your internet search skills aren’t so hot, now is the time to work on them. More and more legal resources are online, so the more comfortable you are with a computer, the better. If you’re not familiar with spreadsheets or popular online legal resources, such as LexisNexis, consider taking some computer classes or reading up on these topics so you’re ready to hit the ground running once you’ve got your certificate!