So, you’re considering taking a paralegal qualification! When you are looking at taking a qualification, what do you look for?

It depends why you want the qualification

If you want to learn how to decorate a cake for your nephew’s birthday, you might be perfectly happy to do an online course. Or, maybe, one run by a local cake supplies shop, and have a piece of paper at the end that will just go in a drawer. You’ve got what you wanted – the skills to make your nephew smile on his birthday because his favourite auntie or uncle has made him a fabulous cake.

But what if you are going to hand this over to a prospective employer? What if this is something that your career is going to depend on?

Then you might want something that others are going to look at and instantly know that the qualification you have taken can be relied upon or – as the regulator tends to describe it – that it’s a valid qualification.

The UK regulators

There are four regulators in the UK – Ofqual (England), Qualifications Wales (Wales), CCEA (Northern Ireland) and SQA (Scotland) – all of whom have statutory powers under various Acts of Parliament. Because of the strength of regulation behind the qualifications that they recognise and the reputation of these regulators, qualifications which hold any of these brands are accepted worldwide. They are the same regulators covering our GCSEs and A-Level qualifications that people use for entry into University.

What’s so special about regulated qualifications?

Awarding bodies who have gained recognition by one or more of these regulators have to have shown that their qualifications are of a very high standard and are ‘valid, reliable and consistent’ – that the people who hold a certificate have all attained the same level of skills, knowledge and understanding for the same qualification. They can be relied upon.

Previously, professional membership bodies would offer their own qualifications, and these were generally accepted in their sectors. Over the last decade, more and more have become recognised awarding organisations. This is because they are seeing the value of having a regulator’s logo on their certificates. Employers across the world are accepting it as a badge of quality. An assurance that the person holding the certificate has level of knowledge they are looking for. There are currently some 24 Professional Bodies who are recognised by one or more regulators as an awarding body, including:

There have been some claims recently that Professional Bodies are moving away from regulated qualifications, but that is not what the evidence suggests. Rather, Professional Bodies are all seeing the benefits of offering fully regulated qualifications. They offer their learners something more than a piece of paper to be stored in the back of a file somewhere. Something they can proudly display; something that offers them a real return on their investment in time and money. The numbers of professional membership bodies that are becoming recognised awarding bodies, offering regulated qualifications continues to grow.

There are, of course, many good training organisations offering unregulated courses which deliver excellent training and which absolutely have a place in the market of vocational and technical qualifications for professionals, but they may not be recognised outside the small business sector that is aware of that brand.

NALP became a recognised awarding organisation in 2009 and they know the value of the Ofqual logo being on their qualifications. The National Paralegal College was the first training centre to deliver NALP qualifications.


Originally published by the National Association of Licensed Paralegals