Picking one among the abundance of paralegal certifications can be a challenge. To help, we've put together a list of the best options, along with details about their requirements, exams, and costs, so you can compare them before making a choice.

Certified Paralegal (CP)

Certified Paralegal (CP) is a widely-recognized certification offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). In 2014, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredited this certification. It has also been acknowledged by the American Bar Association (ABA). NALA provides certifications for both paralegals and legal assistants.

Eligibility Requirements

NALA divides eligibility requirements for this paralegal certification into three categories. Category One is made up of people who are in the last semester of a paralegal studies program or who have graduated from one. The program must meet one of the following criteria:

  • It’s approved by the American Bar Association (ABA)
  • It’s a post-baccalaureate certificate in paralegal studies
  • It’s an associate degree in paralegal studies
  • It’s a paralegal program consisting of at least 60 semester hours, out of which 15 hours contain courses in substantive law
  • It’s a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies

Category Two refers to candidates with bachelor’s degrees in any field of study. Those who want to apply must have worked as a paralegal for at least one year or completed at least 15 semester hours of courses in substantive law.

Those whose highest attained level of education is high school belong to Category Three. Such candidates are required to have at least seven years of experience. 

In addition, they must have completed a minimum of 20 hours of continuing legal education (CLE). Keep in mind that this coursework only counts if it was finished up to two years before applying for the Certified Paralegal exam.

Exam Information and Structure

The CP exam consists of two parts: a knowledge test and a skills test. You may sit for the knowledge test any time of the year, while the skills test is administered only in February, April, July, and October.

The knowledge test lasts for three hours. It’s a series of 120 multiple-choice questions. The maximum points you can score on this exam is 100. There are nine sections, namely:

  • United States Legal System (15 points)
  • Civil Litigation (15 points)
  • Contracts (15 points)
  • Corporate/Commercial Law (10 points)
  • Criminal Law and Procedure (5 points)
  • Estate Planning and Probate (5 points)
  • Real Estate and Property (10 points)
  • Torts (10 points)
  • Professional and Ethical Responsibility (15 points)

The applicants are allowed three attempts to pass the knowledge test over the course of a year. After passing, they can take the skills test, which is worth 30 points. The skills test consists of two essay-type questions. One is meant to examine writing skills while the other tests the applicants’ critical thinking.

Application and Maintenance

Apart from sitting the exam, becoming a certified paralegal also requires paying some fees. The standard price for taking this exam is $250 for NALA members, while non-members are obliged to pay $275. Candidates retaking the exam need to cash out $60 for each part they want to retake. 

There are also testing center fees. For applicants from the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, the fees are $70 for the knowledge test and $63 for the skills test. On the other hand, these fees are $115 and $108 for the knowledge and skills tests, respectively.

American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP)

Acquiring the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) certification was made possible by the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. (AAPI). This certificate doesn’t involve an exam, but you have to meet specific criteria to obtain it. 

As with other options on this list of certifications in paralegal studies, the AACP can help you increase your earnings as a paralegal.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the AACP certification, candidates must have a minimum of five years of work experience as paralegals. Thus, this certification isn’t meant for those who are just starting out in the paralegal field. When it comes to education, you’ll have to have at least one of the following:

  • A bachelor’s or advanced degree in any field
  • An associate degree in paralegal studies
  • A paralegal certificate from a program approved by the ABA
  • A paralegal certificate from a program that is an institutional voting member of the American Association for Paralegal Education

Application and Maintenance

To apply to take this paralegal certification test, you should provide the filled out application form, a copy of the transcript from the educational institution(s) you attended, and an affidavit of declaration from the attorney you worked for. Then, you’re supposed to pay the $75 processing fee.

To maintain your certification, you need to re-submit the form every three years. The renewal fee is $40. That’s not all, as you’re required to complete 18 hours of continuing legal education (CLE), three of which must be in ethics.

Professional Paralegal (PP)

Professional Paralegal (PP) is a certification established in 2004 by the National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS). To earn it, you must pass a written exam. 

Eligibility Requirements

PP certification paralegal experience requirements say that you need to be working as a paralegal for at least five years to take this exam. Alternatively, you’re eligible if you have one of the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies
  • A completed ABA-approved paralegal program
  • A completed accredited paralegal program of at least 60 semester hours and/or 900 clock hours, with no less than 15 semester hours and/or 225 clock hours in substantive law

Exam Information and Structure

There are four parts to the PP exam. All questions are multiple-choice. Candidates with current PLS or CLP certification only need to take the fourth part of the exam. The sections cover the following topics:

  • Part One: Advanced Communications
  • Part Two: Advanced Legal Procedures, Accounting, and Technology
  • Part Three: Advanced Legal Ethics and Authority
  • Part Four: Advanced Substantive Law

Application and Maintenance

The PP credential is valid for five years. To maintain this paralegal certification, the candidate must have enough continuing legal education hours. For NALS members, the application fee is $225. Non-members need to pay $275. 

Those who have PLS or CLP certification have to cash out $175. Retaking the test costs $60 per part for a NALS member, and $70 per part for non-members. In all cases, the proctoring fee is $45.

CORE Registered Paralegal (CRP)

The CORE Registered Paralegal (CRP) certification was established by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), and it was created mainly for entry-level paralegals. To acquire this certification, you must pass the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam (PCCE) which became available in 2011.  

Eligibility Requirements

The eligibility requirements for this paralegal certification exam are:

  • Bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies
  • Bachelor's degree in any subject and a paralegal certificate
  • Bachelor's degree in any subject, six months of experience as a paralegal, and one hour of NFPA-approved CLE in ethics
  • Associate's degree in paralegal studies
  • Associate's degree in any subject, and a paralegal certificate
  • Associate's degree in any subject, one year of experience as a paralegal, and six hours of NFPA-approved CLEs, including one hour of ethics
  • Paralegal certificate, one year of experience as a paralegal, and six hours of NFPA-approved CLEs, including one hour of ethics
  • Military Paralegal Rate, and one CLE hour of ethics
  • High school diploma or GED, five years of experience as a paralegal, and 12 hours of NFPA-approved CLEs, including one hour of ethics, within the last two years

Exam Information and Structure

The exam for this certification consists of 125 multiple choice questions, 15 of which aren’t scored. You have two and a half hours to complete the exam. If you wish to retake the exam, you must wait for at least 30 days before applying.

Application and Maintenance

Upon submitting the application and getting approved, candidates have 90 days to take the exam. The application fee is $300 for NFPA members, and $325 for non-members. The certificate is valid for two years, and must then be renewed. 

Final Thoughts

All in all, as you can tell, each of these respectable paralegal certifications comes with its own set of prerequisites and application fees. It’s up to you to decide which one is right for you. Consider your work experience, education, and the requirements of each program to make an informed decision.