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Are legal qualifications really worth the time and money?

Must ReadAre legal qualifications really worth the time and money?

By Malcolm Trotter, global education and training professional

If you are going to invest in yourself and your legal future career prospects by studying to gain a recognised qualification, this will come at a cost both financially and in the commitment of your time and effort. When making an investment (or any expenditure), you really want to be sure that the future value you will receive is likely to exceed what you have put in. So what are the potential benefits to be gained from achieving qualifications? Will they be worth the investment?

Before looking at what the range of benefits flowing from qualifications may be, let’s first consider whether or not there is evidence of higher salaries for those with qualifications. Actually, there is very clear evidence that on average university graduates earn more than those without a first degree. The most recent official statistics show that in the UK, graduates earn £11,500 per year more than non-graduates. So, for the majority of university graduates, gaining a degree qualification can and does enhance their career (and, thereby, salary) prospects, which over time outweighs the considerable cost of university fees (charged to those outside Scotland) and living costs.

But this positive average statistic masks the fact that many (36%) of graduates are in lower-level jobs that do not require a degree (and therefore are lower paid), with many of them finding that they are not well-matched to the job vacancies or careers that they wish to follow after they graduate.

It’s also estimated that one in eight higher level jobs held by younger people, considered as ‘graduate’ positions, are actually held by non-graduates (but who hold recognised professional qualifications and / or compelling work experience and achievements). I say ‘compelling’ work experience because, whilst some training and work experience can give you a range of professional skills that other employers will find attractive, all too frequently the training provided by employers is focussed on the specific needs and methods of that organisation and may have limited application to other employers and settings.

From these facts you can deduce that to enter and progress in a professional field (to a higher level), it’s really important to gain qualifications that employers recognise as being credible and relevant to the role you wish to apply for. So that’s the bottom line (or headline!). If you want to progress your career, can you afford not to study for and gain a recognised and relevant professional qualification?

With the availability of many low cost and even free online courses, it can be tempting to think that you can learn all that you need to from these. Whilst these can usefully give you a taste of the subjects and sometimes take you further, many do not have a form of credible assessment and certification. Without this, employers can be, understandably, uncertain as to what you may have learnt and therefore the credibility of any certificate that you may have been issued with. For this reason, it’s very important to be confident of the acceptability and recognition by employers of the qualification you are considering studying for.

In general terms, acceptable and recognised qualifications are those that are designed and awarded by the relevant professional bodies (institutes and associations of actual professionals in the same career field). The National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP) is just one example. Its credibility is demonstrated by the fact that its qualifications are designed, assessed and awarded by legally qualified and experienced professionals in the same field. The qualifications are also Ofqual recognised, and employers can therefore rely on its curriculum (qualification content) to be relevant. This means that those who gain NALP qualifications have demonstrated genuine, professional ability in their assessed course work and any exams.

Finally, and in summary, when you consider the range of potential benefits of professional qualifications these are considerable. They can enable you to:

  • Show that you are committed and dedicated enough to complete a course.
  • Prepare individuals for citizenship and involvement in society.
  • Feel empowered.
  • Network with other professionals.
  • Enter certain careers and particularly highly skilled, jobs.
  • Command a higher salary.
  • Demonstrate to potential employers that you have a certain level of ability within a certain field.
  • Expand or refresh your skillset and / or update your knowledge.
  • Progress to further study.

So, if you are looking to take the next step in your legal career, then consider investing in yourself and your future by choosing a relevant recognised qualification which will give you the boost you need.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Malcolm Trotter is a global education and training professional, with extensive experience in post-compulsory / tertiary teaching and learning, qualification development and awarding and the quality assurance of education and training institutions. He has also been a member of the NALP Governing Board since 2018

References:

Graduate labour market statistics, Calendar year 2022 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk)

One in eight young people without degrees work in graduate jobs – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

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