Program Showcase

Paralegal Degree Opens Doors to Exciting Careers

AParalegal degree does more than provide opportunities in the legal field. Many other industries need paralegals, including real estate, hospitals, nonprofits and health care systems. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, paralegals and legal assistants are in high demand for the Philadelphia area, and the education provided by the Paralegal program is exactly what’s needed to enter this exciting career.

The College’s Paralegal program is comprised of students of all ages, educational backgrounds and career goals. Approximately 225 students are enrolled in the program, which offers a traditional and accelerated track. "Students can go right into the workforce, but many decide to pursue a four-year degree, and we have agreements with Arcadia, Widener and Saint Joseph’s universities and Peirce and Wilmington colleges, making it easy to transfer credits toward a bachelor’s degree," said Linda Hibbs, co-coordinator of the program. "Our largest percentage of students, however, come into the Paralegal program having earned a fouryear degree already, seeking the knowledge that will enable them to land a good job. The accelerated option was set up for those students in particular, and this option enables them to complete the program in as little as eight months."

For Marisol Ferguson, who graduated in May 2007 with Highest Honors, flexible course options were a must. "I’m married, I have a child, and I started working as a student," said Ferguson. "I needed something convenient for my schedule.

That is why I chose the College—there were so many scheduling choices." The Paralegal program is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), a huge benefit for prospective and graduating students. "That was big for me," said Ferguson of the ABA approval. She works at the Law Office of Derrick Howard in Philadelphia as a senior paralegal. "The things I learned in class are the things I do now," she said. At her job, Ferguson interviews clients and goes to court to attend case meetings and conferences. While at the College, Ferguson interned at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office four days a week during the summer. She also spent time in a courtroom
two to three times a week.

"I think my internship was a very good, hands-on tool," she said. "In the paralegal field, itís good to have experience."

"Our largest percentage of students...come into the Paralegal program having earned a four-year degree already, seeking the knowledge...to land a good job"

Elena Gmiryansky
Paralegal alumna Elena Gmiryansky Tsizer, Esq.

Ferguson is now a part-time student at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is studying Political Science. Her goal is to become an attorney.

"Community College of Philadelphia has really changed my life," Ferguson said.

Alumna Elena Gmiryansky Tsizer, Esq., entered the Paralegal’s accelerated program to change careers. As a full-time student with a full-time job, she needed a program that offered more than day classes.

"The program works in terms of schedule. Very few Paralegal programs have an option like that."

Upon graduation from the College in 1999, Tsizer went on to earn a bachelor's degree in Journalism/ Public Relations/Advertising from Temple University and graduated magna cum laude with a law degree from the New England School of Law. She is now a licensed attorney in Massachusetts serving as a judicial law clerk for the Family and Probate Court Department of the Massachusetts Trial Court, which handles the litigation of wills, divorces, guardianship cases and custody cases.

"My position entails working closely with the judge. I conduct research and play an important part in the adjudication process." Tsizer credits the faculty at the College for bringing professional experience into the classroom. "The faculty were great. Most of them were practicing attorneys. We received practical applications and examples. The program gave you immediate knowledge." Tsizer continued, "The program worked wonders for me. It expanded my knowledge and my horizons beyond anything I could have imagined."