Certificate Versus Certification

Paralegal Certificate versus Paralegal Certification  

It is important to distinguish between a paralegal certificate and paralegal certification. The terms are often confused but are not interchangeable and have separate meaning.  

We offer students a paralegal certificate either as part of our Law in Liberal Arts program or after completing a bachelor’s degree in another area. The certificate denotes the student has taken legal specialty courses in addition to general education courses.  

A certified paralegal is one that has successfully completed a certification exam or other requirements of the certifying organization. Certification is the process through which an organization grants formal recognition to an individual that meets certain established requirements. This may include meeting educational requirements, prior work experience as a paralegal, and passing an examination.  

Once the paralegal has met these criteria, they may use a special designation namely, “certified paralegal.”  

Currently, all certification programs in the United States are voluntary. Therefore, a paralegal may work in the field without obtaining certification. Two of the national paralegal organizations, the National Association of Legal Assistants, or NALA, and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, or NFPA, offer certification based on examination. The criteria for examination vary. Please visit each association site to learn more about certification. 

Indiana has voluntary registration of paralegals through the Indiana State Bar Association. Please see the association website for more information on becoming an Indiana Registered Paralegal.