“Certificated” means a paralegal has earned a certificate or diploma from a school or program when he or she has successfully completed the necessary paralegal education and training. “Certified” means a paralegal has earned an additional distinction by taking a specialized examination of various legal topics based on experience and education. Once a paralegal becomes certified, he or she may need to earn, on a continuing basis, a certain number of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) hours in order to maintain the certified status. Presently, there are three professional organizations offering certification exams:
•National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers the Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal (CLA/CP) exam (http://www.nala.org/cert.htm)
•National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offers the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam/Registered Paralegal (PACE/RP) exam (http://www.paralegals.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=888)
•American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. (AAPI) offers the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) exam (http://www.aapipara.org/Certification.htm)
Bear in mind this distinction is confusing to many employers. Employers sometimes advertise for a certified paralegal when what they are really looking for is a paralegal with a paralegal certificate. Regardless, certification is recommended because in some highly competitive markets employers prefer or even require it. When evaluating paralegal programs or other training programs, keep in mind the requirements you will have to meet in order to receive paralegal certification.