Paralegal certification is used to demonstrate that a person has an acceptable level of skill, knowledge, and experience as a paralegal. While a person may land a job without gaining such certification, some employers may be more likely to hire individuals who have earned certification or offer them more pay. There are many different organizations that offer certification, and the requirements of each one may vary. Generally, however, a person who wants to earn paralegal certification has to pass an examination and meet educational and work requirements as well.
Often, organizations that offer paralegal certification set educational requirements that certification candidates have to meet. Such an organization may require candidates to hold associate's degrees or bachelor's degrees from paralegal programs. Some may also certify candidates who have completed a paralegal program that ends in a diploma or certificate instead of degree. Additionally, there are some certifying organizations that certify those with high school diplomas, provided that they have several years of work experience.
When a person is deciding which organization he should use for paralegal certification, he may also have to consider the length of paralegal experience he has. Often, work experience requirements depend on the amount of schooling a person has completed. If an individual has earned a bachelor's degree, he may be able to earn certification with as little as one year of on-the-job experience. With some organizations, a person will need more experience if he's earned an associate's degree instead of a four-year degree and even more experience if he does not have a degree at all. Others may require the same amount of experience no matter how much education the certification candidate has.
Many certifying organizations also require an individual to pass an exam as part of the certification process. These exams are typically multiple choice and draw on the knowledge a certification candidate had gained through paralegal education and work experience. There are, however, some organizations that may offer certification to individuals who have completed accredited paralegal programs, without requiring them to test. Despite these differences, most organizations do require certification candidates to earn continuing education credits in order to maintain their paralegal certification.
Since there are different certification options from which a person may choose, an individual may do well to compare each of his options before deciding which one to pursue. He may consider not only which certification requirements he can meet without additional preparation, but also the reputation each organization has earned and the costs involved with earning the credential. Additionally, he may consider which certification most paralegals in his area earn.