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January 15

Paralegal Certificate – Do I Need an ABA Certificate?

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Paralegal Certificate - Do I Need an ABA Certificate?

This blog is going to address questions that we receive fairly frequently about the ABA approved paralegal certificate program versus the traditional paralegal certificate.

Takeaway

In order to obtain an ABA approved paralegal certificate you will likely have to enroll in a college or university and pay significantly more than if you were to obtain a traditional paralegal certificate. Despite this additional cost, the ABA approved certificate does not seem to confer a significant advantage in the job market.

The ABA Approved Paralegal Program

First things first, let's look at what the ABA approved paralegal program is. It appears that the ABA approved paralegal program applies predominantly to colleges and universities, not to private paralegal programs such as Paralegal Institute of Washington, D.C. This means that, for the majority of these paralegal programs, you will have to enroll in a college or university and go through the enrollment process in order to become a university student. To enroll in these ABA programs, you will have to:

  • Apply to the college or university
  • Pay any applicable application fee
  • Gain acceptance to the college or university
  • Take entrance exams
  • Select a major
  • Begin during a pre-scheduled semester such as fall or spring semester
  • Pay potentially expensive per-credit rates while attaining your paralegal certificate

Additionally, by enrolling in a college or university program you may have to take courses unrelated to the paralegal field. This can be inconvenient for certain people, especially those who want to just want to jump right in just get going with their paralegal education.

What is the Benefit of an ABA Paralegal Certificate?

After speaking to literally hundreds of attorneys and HR professionals, our conclusion is that most simply are unaware that an ABA approved paralegal certificate designation even exists. This is reflected in paralegal job postings. We periodically review job postings to see what percentage request applicants with ABA approved paralegal certificates, and this percentage is typically very low.

As of today, September 30, 2022, there are 445 job postings on ZipRecruiter.com (within 25 miles of Washington, D.C.) that mention the word paralegal.


When searching for job postings that list both the terms ABA and paralegal, we have 52 results.


This means that just 11.6% of the job postings that mention the word paralegal also mention ABA. And many of those that do mention ABA are not referring to an ABA approved paralegal program but rather are referring to graduates of an ABA accredited law school. Taken together, it appears that less than 10% of job postings which mention paralegal certificate also mention ABA. This seems to indicate that among hiring law firms, the ABA paralegal certificate is not significantly in demand.

Who Should Attend and ABA Approved Program?

Whether you decide to go for an ABA approved paralegal certificate program or not is a personal decision. If you are already a college student and your school offers an ABA approved paralegal certificate program, it may be a good idea to pursue your certificate that way. But, if you are not already enrolled in college and are looking to enter the paralegal field as quickly and economically as possible, choosing a program like Paralegal Institute of Washington DC would likely be a better bet.


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