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Those who want to receive the highest wages as a paralegal will take the time to earn a paralegal certification. If you do a search online, you will find that there are myriad of certificate programs out there, which can make it difficult to know which one is best.
To help narrow down your choices, make sure to only consider certifications from schools that are accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). These schools are highly regarded and are what potential employers expect to see on your resume.
Once you finish your training you will be ready to test for one of the paralegal exams, and by passing these tests you will receive a designation as a paralegal.
However, there are several national agencies that provide these tests and each grants different types of designations.
The two most popular agencies are the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). Below, you will find a brief description of what they require and the type of certification that they offer.
National Association of Legal Assistants
Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP)
- Graduation from an ABA certified paralegal program; or
- Graduation from an associate program; or
- A bachelor’s degree plus Graduation from an ABA certified paralegal program; or
- A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies; or
- A bachelor’s degree plus one year experience as a legal assistant; or
- A high school diploma plus seven years experience as a legal assistant
National Federation of Paralegal Associations
PACE – Registered Paralegal or RP
- Associate’s degree in paralegal studies from an accredited or ABA certified school; or
- A bachelor’s degree and three years of paralegal experience; or
- A bachelor’s degree plus completion of an accredited paralegal program plus two years of experience; or
- Four years of paralegal experience before December 31,2000
As you can see there are several ways to make yourself eligible for a paralegal certificate. However, the requirements are becoming progressively more stringent. National agencies are putting more pressure on paralegals to become educated and are placing less value on experience.
Thus, if you want to ensure that you have a long and rewarding career, with opportunities for upward mobility, then it is wise to either get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies.
If you are concerned about how going back to school might disrupt your home or work life, then you may want to consider one of the several accredited online schools that offer paralegal certification programs. These schools provide fantastic training, and you can continue to work while studying in your free time. If you know that this career is for you, then you don’t have to wait any longer as many online schools let you enroll immediately. Once you finish your education you are all but guaranteed to see the rewards of higher wages and a secure job.