Education and Training Requirements

High School

While in high school, take a broad range of subjects, including English, social studies or government, computer science, and languages, especially Spanish and Latin. Because legal terminology is used constantly, word origins and vocabulary should be a focus.

Postsecondary Training

According to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), the majority of paralegals have received some formal paralegal education. Paralegal programs are offered at two-year and four-year colleges or universities. However, current trends across the country, as illustrated by surveys, indicate that formal paralegal education has become a requirement to secure employment, and a four-year degree is the hiring standard in many markets. 

There are approximately 1,000 paralegal programs, more than 260 of which have been approved by the American Bar Association. Visit https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory for a list of programs.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Paralegals are not required to be licensed or certified, however, many become certified to be a more competitive job applicant or to advance their career. The NFPA offers two credentialing exams. The Paralegal CORE Competency Exam (PCCE) is targeted toward early-career and entry-level paralegals and allows use of the designation, CRP, after one's name. Those further along in their careers may sit for the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE), which results in the RP designation. To learn more, visit https://www.paralegals.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3294. Additionally, NALA offers the CP Certified Paralegal program and the Advanced Paralegal Certification program. More information is available at https://www.nala.org/certification/certified-paralegal-cp-program.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Experience as an intern, volunteer, or part-time employee at a law firm or other employer of paralegals is recommended 

Paralegals need strong research, writing, and organizational skills. They have to be able to concentrate on detailed work for possibly long hours behind a desk. Deductive reasoning, the ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce a conclusion, will help advance one's career.

Paralegals must be able to take direction from the attorney and meet deadlines. Proficiency with computers and legal databases, such as LexisNexis, is critical as more legal research and court documents as well as filings are online.

Communication skills, both verbal and written, are vital to working as a paralegal. You must be able to turn research into reports that a lawyer or corporate executive can use. You must also be able to think logically and learn new laws and regulations quickly. Research skills, computer skills, and people skills are other necessities.