Paralegal Studies

Paralegal Certificate

SMU Paralegal Certificate | Frequently Asked Questions

Program fast facts

FORMAT In-Person
TUITION Priority Rate (by Aug. 4): $5,495
Standard Rate: $5,745
NEXT PROGRAMS Jun. 6 – Dec. 5, 2017; T/Th evenings 6 – 9 p.m. on the Dallas campus

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Program Requirements

Registration / Enrollment

General Information

Do I need to have a college degree to enroll in the program?

To be a qualified applicant for our Paralegal Studies Certificate program, you need to have a bachelor’s degree. Prospects without a degree must possess a minimum of four years of legal experience to apply and be considered for an exception. Exceptions will be reviewed and considered on an individual basis. Please contact a program advisor to discuss your options.

What are the TOEFL score requirements?

We recommend non-native English speakers have a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score of at least 250 on the paper-based exam or 100 on the internet-based exam. These scores are recommended, but not required.

I don’t have a legal background; will I be able to keep up?

Qualified applicants are not required to possess a legal background to take this certificate program. This program is designed for legal staff, people seeking knowledge of the paralegal profession, and students considering law school.

When and where is the program offered?

We currently offer the program in the Spring on Saturdays from 9AM – 4PM (Dallas), in the Summer on weeknight evenings from 6PM – 9PM (Dallas), in the Fall on Saturdays from 9AM – 4PM (Plano), and in the Fall on weeknight evenings from 6PM – 9PM (Dallas).

Is this program ABA approved?

Our program is not ABA approved. We do not require ABA approval as we are mandated by our University, which oversees all programs at SMU. ABA is mostly used at community colleges where there is not a University to oversee the program to meet basic requirements. The criteria at SMU is much more rigorous than that of ABA, while fulfilling all the requirements to sit for the credential exams. If you have any concerns, please contact a program advisor.

How many hours outside of class will I need to devote to studying?

Plan on spending an additional 4-6 hours a week on course material.

Will I receive a grade in each course? Are there exams?

Students receive letter grades for each course. Exams are given in an online format; some courses include in-class projects.

Can I take a single Paralegal course?

No, students must take the full program. We do not offer single Paralegal courses.

What is a passing score in each Paralegal course? What if I fail?

Students must earn a minimum of 70% in each course and have an overall average of 75% in the program to earn the SMU Paralegal Studies Certificate. If you fail a course, you can continue with your program, but you will need to retake the failed course with the next cohort (open spaces are not guaranteed). The program must be completed successfully within 18 months to receive a certificate.

Are there any required textbooks or additional costs?

The cost of the certificate program includes textbooks. You will receive an e-mail from the CAPE office as your class date approaches with instructions for picking up your books.

Can I take the course online?

No, the entire Paralegal Studies Certificate must be taken in person.

Why a certificate program?

According to the State Bar of Texas, certificate programs are the majority of training most paralegals choose. Students who already possess a college degree and students who already have valuable related experience normally choose a certificate over a two or four-year paralegal program to gain knowledge and skills in a relatively short period of time.

Will graduates of the program be able to sit for certification exams?

There are multiple exams this program would allow you to sit for, such as the NFPA Paralegal CORE Competency Exam™, NALA, and many others. Please check the website of the exam you are interested in for requirements.

What can I expect for employment? What is the average salary?

According to the State Bar of Texas, 94% of Paralegals are hired as full time associates. As of 2016, the average Paralegal salary in the DFW area is $51,000. Please click here for updated information.

What is the difference between certification and a certificate?

A certificate is an accomplishment of knowledge in Paralegal Studies. Most law firms are looking to hire candidates with a Paralegal Certificate. Certifications are exams given by specific Paralegal Associations and your certificate of studies at SMU will allow you to sit for these exams (see above). According to the State Bar of Texas, only 23% of employers will ask for these types of certifications.

Do you offer financial assistance? Will it cover the cost of textbooks?

Our courses are non-credit and therefore do not qualify for FASFA or veteran’s benefits.

SMU has a relationship with Sallie Mae for their Smart Options Continuing Education Student Loan. You can only apply for the loan if you are enrolling in the entire package. To apply for this loan, follow the steps outlined on the Enrollment and Financing page. Please note that your requested loan amount cannot exceed the program tuition. YOU MUST COMPLETE YOUR APPLICATION FOR THE SALLIE MAE LOAN 14 DAYS BEFORE THE FIRST DAY OF THE PROGRAM.

How do I register?

To register for the certificate program package:

  1. Register for the application course online, and pay the non-refundable $50 fee. Payment of the application fee does not guarantee you a seat in the class / program.

  2. Upon registering for the application course, you will receive, via e-mail, a confirmation receipt along with the program application. Return the completed application and requested documents to or fax them to 214.768.1071.

  3. The CAPE student advisor will confirm your acceptance and send accepted students a welcome e-mail with the next steps towards enrollment.

*Please note, that your seat in the program is not guaranteed until registration is paid in full.

Can I make multiple payments throughout the program?

No, you must pay for the full amount at one time. Please view our Enrollment and Financing page for more details.

Can I still sign up if the program is full?

Our courses are first come first served and a spot is not guaranteed until registration is paid in full. If a course you want to take is full, please add your name to the waitlist and we will notify you if a spot opens up. Students on the waiting list are not obligated to register if/when a space becomes available.

My company is paying for me; how do I apply?

If your company is paying for your tuition, please contact a program advisor to receive a third party billing form and application. Please include whether or not your company is paying for the application fee, and then submit both your application and the third party billing form simultaneously. You will not be enrolled in the course until we receive the approved Line of Credit form with the necessary signatures.

Can I get a transcript for my course?

Yes, please contact the CAPE Student Advisor at 214.768.2273 for assistance. Transcripts cost $10 each and are processed within two business days of your paid request.

Do you offer discounts?

SMU students, alumni, faculty/staff, veterans, and non-profits receive a 10% discount off our courses. Contact the CAPE office at 214-768-2273 if you qualify for a discount. Please note that this discount is applied to standard tuition rate; not the priority rate.

Select corporate and group rates are available, contact a program advisor for more details.

Special rates cannot be combined. If you qualify for more than one special rate, you will be given the one with the largest savings.

Where do I park for my class?

You will receive enrollment confirmation and course reminders via emails for all CAPE courses. In addition, a parking pass with additional details and directions also will be sent to all attendees.

Parking in an undesignated parking area may result in a parking fine.

How can I get a copy of the catalog?

To request a course catalog, please use the online form or call 214.768.2273.

What if I need to withdraw from a class?

If you choose to withdraw from the certificate program, please notify us in writing (via email: or fax 214-768-1071) prior to the start of the program. If a withdrawal request is received in writing more than three full business days prior to the first course start date students may receive a refund, minus a $250.00 processing fee.

SMU CAPE professional certificate enrollment is final as of 3 business days prior to first course start date and programs are intended to be successfully completed in full. After that date, you will not receive a refund if you withdraw or quit the course before completion. We do not provide prorated refunds or credits for partial certificate program completion. Students enrolled in a certificate program may have the option to transfer to another cohort; this option is outlined in the student terms and conditions of each program, pending space availability and time remaining to successfully complete their program. Students may also put funds in escrow for up to 12 months for use by themselves or someone else if withdrawing prior to program start date.

Failure to attend class does not constitute withdrawal.

All refunds will be made in the form of the original payment. Please allow up to six weeks to receive check refunds.

Full details are available on the certificate application.

Can I take a tour of the campus?

Most classes are held in the CAPE building on East Campus, but you are welcome to join undergraduate tours. Campus tours are designed for prospective undergraduates but if you are interested, you can find more information here.

Do you offer job placement/internships?

Your success is important to us and we want to provide you with opportunities to reach your goals. That is why we offer a complimentary career coaching service exclusively for our certificate program participants. Career coaching is designed to help you explore topics relevant to your career success in a flexible and personalized format. Career coaching does not guarantee job placement.

Students also have access to our private job posting board on LinkedIn. Jobs are posted by employers in the DFW area who are eager to employ graduates of SMU programs.

I still have questions; can I speak with an advisor?

Yes, please contact Terry Teague (214.621.4834) or Karoline Staton (214.768.1086) and our program advisors will be in touch with you.