By Vicki Voisin, ACP
A question was posed to me recently while I was doing one on one coaching with a paralegal who wanted tips to get her career off dead center and moving forward. She asked me:
“Vicki, do you think I should get state specific certification or take a certification exam offered by a national paralegal professional association?”
My answer? “Both!” Double is always better. Here are five reasons why you should double up on your certifications.
Credible. Certification typically consists of the “3 E’s”: Education, Experience and Exam. You are not able to take a certification examination unless you meet certain criteria. It is a career-long commitment that demonstrates to your peers and your employers that you have mastered core principles and that you are dedicated to staying current in your profession.
Certification gives you expert status which translates to credibility. Having that on a state level is definitely a plus. You double your credibility when you take that expert status to the national level, showing advanced analytical abilities and writing skills, as well as a broad understanding of laws and procedures nationwide.
Marketable. Whether you’re job hunting or job hopping, you are more valuable if you have doubled up on your certifications. Think of it this way:
(a) almost everyone acquires a certificate or degree in paralegal studies prior to entering the profession; if everyone has a paralegal certificate, they have identical qualifications and are on a level playing field;
(b) state specific certification hikes you up a notch and gives you a leg up on someone with only their basic education;
(c) doubling up with your national certification puts you on top of the heap.
Portable. Your state specific certification will serve you well so long as you never move to another state. For instance, if you move from North Carolina or Ohio to Texas, you will be competing with paralegals who may already have that state’s certification.
Since you will need all the ammunition you can muster to land a job in a place where virtually no one knows you, your very portable national certification will give you the credibility you need for employment in your new location.
Profitable. Salary surveys illustrate the value of your certification. If you’re a paralegal with one credential, you will certainly earn a higher salary than a paralegal with none. However, if you’re a paralegal with double certifications, you are in a position to demand an even higher salary. In this case, certification makes both sense and cents.
Recognizable. Certification is a standard by which employers can judge the competency of a potential employee and the value of a current employee. You can be very proud of the letters displayed after your name. They demonstrate your advanced abilities, your depth of experience, and your knowledge. Double the letters translates to double the recognition of your advanced skills and knowledge.
A handful of states have state specific certification. There are different qualifications for taking each. Some require you to have up with national certification to qualify, others do not. Wherever you live, national certification is available and accessible.
How do you “double up” if you have no state certification available? Move on to advanced certification (NALA has 17 ACP areas) or work on some other industry certifications. For instance, if you work in insurance defense, a CRM (Certified Risk Manager) might be helpful. Do you work with employee benefits? You might look into a PHR (Professional in Human Resources).
There are also certifications in the computer and medical fields that could be beneficial. You will want to be sure that the certification you seek has value in your specialty area and enhances the scope of your work. The only other precaution is to be sure the certification is professionally managed and administered.
Do you want to move your career in the right direction? A single certification will do that. Double certification will make you more credible, marketable and noticeable. You will find it is both portable and profitable. Double certification will move you miles ahead. Double is definitely better!
©2011 Vicki Voisin, Inc. Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can so long as you include this entire blurb with it:
Vicki Voisin, “The Paralegal Mentor”, delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by achieving goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a weekly ezine titled Paralegal Strategies and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network. More information is available at http://www.paralegalmentor.com.