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The Paralegal Note, Issue #005 -- Is A Paralegal Certificate Worth It?
July 20, 2012
Is A Paralegal Certificate Worth It?
Yes and no.
This is often a subject of debate, but it largely depends on your educational circumstance. Do you have a bachelor's degree? If so, it isn't much more of a jump to pick up a paralegal certificate.
Certificate programs can range anywhere from 6 to 12 months. And, of course, no two certificate programs are alike. Ideally, it's best to earn your certificate from an ABA approved program.
The ABA approval gives your resume more distinction than not having it. Hey, I don't make the rules, it's just the way law firm hiring managers tend to think. ABA approval tells them you've met the basic standard of legal education established by the American Bar Association.
Tons of candidates are competing for the same paralegal positions. Whenever possible, distinguish yourself. If you can, get your certificate from an ABA approved program. If not, find out from your local NALA chapter and the school you plan to attend about employment opportunities after graduation. Be sure you understand your options before making a commitment.
If you have no education beyond highschool, a certificate isn't for you. Typically certificates are earned by those holding post secondary degrees.
Not to worry, however. You can get an associate degree in legal studies and be adequately prepared to seek employment in the legal field. You may not need anything beyond an associate degree unless you want more education.
Most paralegals have at least an associate degree. You could then earn a certificate if your associate degree is not in legal studies. And, of course, you have the option of pursuing a bachelor degree.
Paralegals are always learning. It's the nature of this work! Once you begin working as a paralegal, you'll have opportunity to improve your skills and education on the job. However, getting a paralegal position does go better for candidates with education particularly if it's from an ABA approved program.
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