Center for Advanced Legal Studies: http://www.paralegal.edu/blog/bid/190460/Paralegal-Certificate-vs-Paralegal-Certification
When choosing a specific path for a career as a paralegal, two different terms are used interchangeably: certificate and certified. The two mean vastly different levels of paralegal studies and could make one candidate stand out amongst another in the eyes of a potential employer.
According to the Center for Advanced Legal Studies, receiving a paralegal certificate is what one receives at the conclusion of their paralegal studies. More specifically a certificate is sought by students who are entering the paralegal program with a prior Bachelor’s or Associate’s Degree. If someone is looking into earning a degree as a paralegal and have not attended a post-secondary institute, earning a Bachelor’s or Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies is the path recommended. Depending on how long the student wishes to be in school and how intense the studies, an Associate’s Degree can be obtained much quicker thus opening the student to starting employment sooner.
Once the student achieves a paralegal certificate in addition to an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree or a Bachelor’s or Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies, he or she can go on to become a certified paralegal. Many industries, including the legal, engineering and accounting industries, require or encourage professionals to become certified in their field before finding employment. In the area of law, lawyers are required to take the Bar Exam to receive their license to practice. With respect to a paralegal, while it is not required that every paralegal be certified, having that certification makes a candidate stand out amongst the crowd.
A certified paralegal is a paralegal that has completed a certification exam and has met a set list of criteria. Before becoming certified, the candidate must have graduated from an accredited paralegal program, either with an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree, have achieved an acceptable score on a qualifying series of examinations, or has completed a set amount of work experience.
When applying for a paralegal position, stating that you are a certified paralegal shows potential employers and/or clients that, you, as a candidate, have achieved a high level of competence and understanding of the industry. Attorneys are encouraged routinely to promote continuing education with their paralegal staff. Many law firms or offices will pay for their paralegals to receive additional training or to go on to obtain certification.
Many different organizations offer certification exams, and these are offered often on a national level. The National Association of Paralegals (NALA), NALS, the Association for Legal Professionals, and The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offer certification exams, as well as other state legal entities and State Bar Associations.