If you are interested in pursuing a paralegal degree in the state of Florida, you’ll be happy to know that the state is home to many fine colleges and universities offering programs in the field. It is important to note, however, that it is not necessary for all prospective paralegals to receive degrees in paralegal studies. While most professionals will earn an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, some will just hold certifications.

Certifications, though, are simply for those who already possess an undergraduate degree, not necessarily in a related field, and who wish to supplement their education with a paralegal studies education. These programs are usually chosen by individuals who decided to work as paralegals later in life, after they had already completed a degree program. Generally, associate’s degree programs take around two years to complete, and certification programs take around six months to a year.

Another important thing for you to know is that not just any school can actually grant you a degree or a certification in paralegal studies. In order for you to work in the field and to legally practice, your degree or certification must come from a school that is both accredited in the traditional sense and approved by the American Bar Association. Some schools may offer related programs, but unless they meet this criteria, your degree or certification won’t mean much of anything in the real world.

One accredited and approved school in the state is Broward College, located in Pembroke Pines. This school offers only the associate’s degree program, so those looking for a certification course will need to look elsewhere. However, it has many wonderful advantages, including a wide availability of paralegal internships, which lead to impressive resumes and real world experience, both of which make it easier to find a job upon graduation.

The school also has job placement services for graduates, offers training in computer assisted legal research and legal software programs, and has many evening courses for those who cannot meet the demands of a traditional schedule. Broward College offers lots of financial aid for qualified students, and all graduates are eligible to sit for the certified legal assistant/ certified paralegal examination.

Then, you have Edison State College, based in Fort Meyers. This fine college, like Broward, offers only associate’s degree programs and, in fact, encourages its students to pursue bachelor’s degrees in a related area after receiving their educations. This, however, is not a requirement. At Edison State College, you will be able to get your degree and to specialize in a specific area of law that is of interest to you.

Common choices include legal research, legal writing, real estate law, criminal law, family law, wills, trusts, torts, litigation, or some combination of two or more of these. Obviously, this program is designed specifically for those who already have a clear idea of the kind of paralegal job that they would like to have after they complete their education.

Yet another excellent choice is Florida State College at Jacksonville. This, like Edison State College, is an affordable option for residents of the state and, also like its predecessors, it only offers the associate’s degree program. It can prepare its students to work in a wide variety of settings, such as administrative agencies, governmental positions, insurance companies, major corporations, private law firms, state agencies, and more. Upon graduation, students can be placed in relevant internships, and the will be on the right track for certification as well.

Obviously, all of the schools discussed here can propel students to success, as long as the students are willing to work hard and to give their programs their all.

Some other schools that are just as excellent in terms of preparing you for work in the field are Miami Dade College, Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Seminole State College in Sanford, South University at West Palm Beach (actually located in Royal Palm Beach), St. Petersburg College of Clearwater, and Valencia College, located in Orlando. If none of these are good fits for you, then you always have the option of earning your degree or certification online. Just be selective so that you choose a legitimate school and not a scam.