KENTUCKY – Want to expand your education, but you have to work to make ends meet? This might just be your lucky day.
Recently, Madisonville Community College (MCC) has received notification that their paralegal certificate was approved. MCC now offers a paralegal certification program online. So no matter what state you live in, you can become certified online to sit down for your state’s Paralegal Association Certified Paralegal Exam.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a much faster than average growth rate for the employment of paralegals, with a 28% growth rate through 2018 overall. The Workforce Kentucky website reports that between 2008 and 2018, the Pennyrille Region should see an 18% increase in the need for paralegals, while the Green River Region should expect a 14.8 % increase. The annual mean salary for paralegals in both regions is around $38,300.
The Workforce Kentucky website also reports that the growth rate for the paralegal field in Kentucky through 2018 is 18.2% with average annual openings of 104. The median annual wage for paralegals nationally is $46,680 and the mean wage is $49,640. Statewide, there are many employment opportunities for paralegals in small and large law firms, state and local government, as well as corporations.
“We’re looking at a very healthy demand,” says MCC Chief Academic Officer Deborah Cox. “We see this as both a high wage and high demand field for people to get into.”
According to the MCC website the Paralegal Technology curriculum is a 39 hour program that will prepare you for entry-level employment as a paralegal in courts, corporations, law firms, and government agencies. The curriculum is based on standards developed from the National Association of Legal Assistants’ Descriptions of Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) Exam Sections, which industry standards are based on as well.
“It’s a large certificate, but it is designed so that students will be fully prepared to sit for the Kentucky Paralegal Association Certified Kentucky Paralegal Exam, and be ready to be certified as a paralegal in the state of Kentucky,” explains Cox.
Each state in the country has a state specific exam, and the online program will adjust for that. MCC is hoping to target a national audience by offering this program.
“I think what we are going to see is it hitting an audience of people who are already employed, perhaps as a legal secretary, or an office in the court system, or something like that,” says Cox. “This will give that working professional flexibility so that they can keep their job, and go on and start the program, and get into a pathway that might be really rewarding for them.”
Another unique part of the program is who is instructing and coordinating it. The college has hired a new faculty member, and this will be the first time that they have hired someone full-time who is completely off-site. Paula Sinopoli, from Birmingham, Alabama has been working in some capacity as a paralegal since 1985.
“We’ve found a really fine person to serve as the program coordinator,” explains Cox. “Paula has seventeen years worth of professional experience as a practicing paralegal, and she also taught paralegal studies at Gulf Coast Community College, so she’s got the best of both worlds for us. She’s planning to make this a very interactive program, where students are engaged in some very real life scenarios.”
Though Sinopoli officially starts her position on August the 1st of this year, she has been working with the college since September of 2011 in the development of the curriculum for the Paralegal Technology program.
“I’m very excited to be part of the faculty for MCC,” says Sinopoli. “My decision to become a paralegal was one of the best I have ever made. A certificate and/or degree in paralegal studies open many employment opportunities beyond the law office. Paralegals can work within the court systems, banks, real estate companies, mortgage companies, various types of corporations and many other fields as well. Job opportunities in today’s job market can be full-time or part-time, contract work and even freelance work; however, there is a stipulation in most circumstances that a paralegal must still work under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney.”
Sinopoli also shared her excitement with SurfKY News regarding the fact that the program is being offered online nationally.
“That will allow students to take classes and juggle whatever else life throws at them,” explains Sinopoli. “They can literally access courses 24/7.”
“It will also be a great opportunity for people right out of high school who want to work some while they are in school,” points out Cox.
The program will follow the regular school schedule and classes will start with the fall semester. Tuition will run at $140 per credit hour, and that price stays the same no matter what state you reside in.
It’s pretty exciting when you look at the demand,” says Cox. “We’ve got to focus on the future. People don’t have money to waste, and the programs that we put forth have got to be programs that have a future.”
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