Paralegal Trade and Career Schools

Becoming certified is essential

Paralegal school graduates can look forward to healthy competition when searching for their first jobs. That's why many choose to distinguish themselves early on by specializing in areas where they know they'll be in demand. Paralegal school graduates may also choose to separate themselves form the pack by earning certifications that demonstrate their professionalism and skill level.

Certification

Paralegal certification is usually a voluntary process, although some states have licensing requirements. Certification programs can involve both courses and examinations or just exams. Some serve to increase a paralegal's knowledge and prepare them for getting a job, while others might simply be used to demonstrate a paralegal's skill level. Certifications can increase a paralegal's chances for promotion over those who merely have a diploma from paralegal school.

Professional associations often administer certification testing. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offers an advanced competency exam to any candidate with a bachelor's degree and two years of work experience. A RP (Registered Paralegal) designation is given to those who pass.

The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) requires a combination of education and experience for paralegals to become CLAs (Certified Legal Assistants) or CPs (Certified Paralegals). The group also offers advanced certification for certain areas of law, such as personal injury, land use and discovery.

Accreditation

Programs that have been approved by a reputable body such as the American Bar Association (ABA) can be beneficial to students during training and upon graduation. Accredited programs can offer assurances that students will receive a quality education. Employers and certification associations may also look favorably upon students who have completed accredited programs in paralegal schools.

Real world experience

When looking for a paralegal program, make sure to find out about job placement services or internship opportunities. If you can gain work experience before graduation you'll be better prepared to find employment, and if the school will help you find a job you'll be that much further along. Request information from schools and talk to experienced paralegals and recent paralegal school graduates to help you decide what path is the right choice.