How to Become a Paralegal
An education from a paralegal school is a great way to launch a career assisting lawyers with preparing for trials, hearings, and corporate meetings. In addition to working for law firms, paralegals often provide assistance to the legal and finance departments in large corporations as well as nonprofit and government organizations.
People interested in becoming a paralegal may take one of several paths. The most common way to become a paralegal is through a paralegal associate’s degree program. More than 1,000 colleges, universities, law schools, and proprietary schools offer paralegal studies programs and we feature top accredited paralegal programs to help you find the right school. If you already have a college degree, you might want to pursue paralegal certification. Beyond formal paralegal training, paralegals must have a variety of office and communication skills. They must exhibit attention to detail, be able to research and report on topics, understand legal terminology, and participate in continuing legal and paralegal education. Criminal Justice Degree Schools features paralegal career, salary, and job growth information as well as a series of paralegal career articles.
Becoming a paralegal can be a good fit for those who have a strong interest in the legal field but do not want to pursue the intense training and testing required to become a lawyer. In the US, a paralegal is not considered an officer of the court and cannot offer representation for legal services under any circumstances.
If you are interested in how to become a paralegal, first you should research paralegal degree options and career information.
Second, you will need to complete training in the paralegal field. Most law firms require an associate’s degree. In a competitive job market, more employers are requiring a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or a related field. Criminal Justice Degree Schools features links to top paralegal blogs where you can learn more about the career and its requirements.
Third, you can and should get free information from a career advisor at a school offering paralegal or criminal justice degrees. You can pose questions and review free career materials before committing to a program.
Fourth, you can narrow your legal focus. Although you can pursue a general paralegal degree, the law covers a wide range of subjects, from criminal law to corporate law, from patent and copyright laws to estates and wills. Since most lawyers specialize in one or two areas of law, specialized training can be an asset when seeking employment. Depending on the topics that you find most interesting, you will have a number of education options within each of these fields to pursue.
Fifth, you should decide if you want to go to school full-time or part-time. The great news is that you can continue to work while pursuing your paralegal career as many schools have part-time evening and weekend programs as well as online paralegal degrees that can make getting a degree easier while fitting with your work and family schedule.
Finally, be certain that the college or university you choose is regionally accredited. In just a few quick minutes, you can review the information you need on this site and request free, no-obligation information that can get you started toward a new and rewarding career as a paralegal.
Career Opportunities for Paralegal Degree Program Graduates
Individuals with a paralegal degree are not limited to working in law firms. Corporate departments often have paralegals on staff to review purchase orders and contracts as well as other legal documents. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 8% for paralegals and legal assistants through 2024.1 As far as pay, paralegal salaries can vary widely depending on location, years of experience, and work setting. According to the BLS, the average paralegal salary was $48,810 as of 2015, with the highest-earning 10% of paralegals making over $79,010 per year.1
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm