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Paralegal Degree & Career Center

Criminal Justice Degree Schools has an extensive collection of paralegal degree and paralegal career information for researching the best paralegal schools, degrees, programs, and certificates. In addition to information on how to become a paralegal, we provide prospective paralegals with an excellent picture of what life will be like once you’ve landed a job and started your career. From the expectations and challenges to the benefits and rewards, you’ll have a very good idea of what being a paralegal is all about.

Degree Information

A paralegal certificate can help aspiring paralegals get started in the paralegal field and set them apart from other candidates by providing a recognized credential. Earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or a related field can provide even stronger career preparation. Visit our Sample Paralegal Coursework page to get an overview of what a paralegal degree typically entails, and continue reading this page to find more information about how to become a paralegal (with video) as well as information on certification and schools.

Career Information

Visit our Paralegal Career page to learn about a general job description, career outlook, and salary and benefits. For specific paralegal careers, check out these pages:

Paralegal Schools by State

Below is a comprehensive list of paralegal-specific state pages with for researching requirements, schools, coursework, salary, and job outlooks for paralegals across the United States. Your location doesn’t matter – from Memphis, Tennessee to Missoula, Montana, we’ve got you covered!

Paralegal Interviews

We interviewed paralegal leaders from across the country to provide professional career advice.

>>See All Paralegal Interviews

US Directory of Paralegal Associations

Our comprehensive directory features over 140 US paralegal associations organized by state. Joining a paralegal association can help you network and advance your career. Find the associations near you.

National Paralegal Certification

Learn about the different paralegal certification options available and the requirements for earning certification.

Top 25 Paralegal Blogs

Criminal Justice Degree Schools has published a list of the Top Paralegal Blogs from thought-leading bloggers to provide insights and career advice for aspiring paralegals who are interested in acquiring a degree and achieving a successful career in this field.

Legal Blogs

Learn about different areas of the legal field by viewing our top legal blogs.
Top Divorce Law Blogs

Free Criminal Justice and Law Lectures

Our free criminal justice lectures resource provides video and audio lectures from 15+ criminal justice and law related college courses that are available to watch or listen to online for free, taught by professors from top US universities like Harvard, Yale, New York University, and UC Berkeley.

Top Paralegal Scholarships

Jean H. Proffitt Scholarship Fund – A scholarship that helps Richmond, Virginia area students with tuition and book expenses.

Lawassa B. Jones Memorial Scholarship – An annual $500 scholarship for students pursuing a degree in paralegal or legal assistant studies by the Tennessee Paralegal Association.

Jamie Bowie Memorial Scholarship – An annual $250 scholarship for students enrolled in an ABA-approved program by the Oklahoma Paralegal Association.

>>See All Paralegal Scholarships

Profiles of Paralegal Degree Programs

Davenport University maintains a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies program that prepares students for careers as paralegals and legal assistants and can also lay the foundation for further study in law school. The 120-credit hour program provides study beyond the associate’s degree level in fundamental areas of paralegal knowledge such as litigation procedures, computer applications for law offices, ethics, and further study in legal specialties. Available specialty electives include Evidence and Criminal Procedure, Estate Planning and Probate Law, and Employment and Labor Law. Study abroad courses specific to paralegal study in Comparative Legal Analysis and Special Legal Topics are also offered. Students who already hold a bachelor’s degree may pursue the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Paralegal Studies offered by the university. Program graduates consistently pass the national paralegal certification exams at a higher rate than the national average. All Paralegal Studies programs at Davenport University are approved by the American Bar Association.

Platt College offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies that can be completed in as few as 26 months. This degree program uses the same foundation as the Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies as a starting point to build towards advanced coursework in paralegal studies and the liberal arts. Legal technology and research tools are an important part of the curriculum, which also focuses on honing practical skills and the understanding of legal procedure. Example courses offered include Criminal Law, Legal Writing, Civil Litigation, and Advanced Trial Procedures. The classes for the Paralegal Studies degree are offered on the Ontario, Alhambra, and Riverside campuses. Courses at Platt College are typically scheduled for morning and evening hours to accommodate the needs of working professionals and students with outside commitments. Platt College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, which is recognized as an accrediting body for higher education by the US Department of Education.

Peirce College offers a Bachelor’s of Science in Paralegal Studies with flexible scheduling options. Practical and theoretical legal knowledge and skills applicable to real-world demands are emphasized in the curriculum, which consists of courses such as Legal Technology, Advanced Legal Research, Advanced Legal Writing, and Professional Legal Responsibility. Students also take capstone or cooperative work experiences for program credit. After completing the four foundational courses in a traditional on-campus environment, students may elect to take further courses online, on-campus, or in a hybrid combination. A Certificate of Proficiency in Paralegal Studies is offered for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree. Program faculty are legal experts who remain involved with the legal community from the local to the national levels, which helps ensure that coursework is aligned with changes in the legal industry. The Paralegal Studies program at Peirce College is approved by the American Bar Association.

Why Becoming a Paralegal is a Promising Career Choice

The American Bar Association (ABA) defines a paralegal as follows: “a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.” Put in simpler terms, a paralegal is a professional staff member who performs allowable legal tasks under attorney supervision.

If you’re seeking a challenging and engaging position in a growing field, consider pursuing this career. Paralegals are a vital part of any legal team, and they take on interesting, important assignments that often vary on a daily basis. If you enjoy investigating facts, performing research, writing, and working with people in a fast-paced atmosphere, chances are you may enjoy this career path.

Interesting and Engaging Work Environment

The exact job duties of a paralegal (sometimes called a “legal assistant”) can greatly vary depending on where they’re employed and the area of law in which they work. Paralegals perform tasks such as conducting legal and factual research, drafting court documents and correspondence, reviewing and summarizing records, filing documents with the court, maintaining files, and communicating with clients. They can do many of the same tasks that an attorney can do, with the exceptions of accepting cases and setting fees, giving legal advice, and representing clients in court. About 72% of paralegals work for law firms according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, but governmental agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations also utilize these professionals.1

Many Options for Education

In most states, there are no specific education requirements to become a paralegal. Many community colleges, technical schools, and universities offer specific degree programs to prepare for this career, including certificates as well as associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies. It’s also possible, but increasingly rare, to obtain a position based on other work experience and with on-the-job training only. When deciding on a school, consider choosing one with an ABA-accredited paralegal program. ABA-accredited curricula must meet strict criteria established by the ABA, and by choosing an ABA-approved program you can rest assured that you’re getting a quality education.

Strong Employment Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the paralegal job field is expected to grow at a rate of 8% through 2024.1 As law firms and other employers continue to cut budgets while the demand for legal services increases, employers are choosing to utilize paralegals whenever possible, since paralegals can perform legal tasks at a lower cost per hour than attorneys. The BLS predicts that the industries with the strongest job growth for paralegals over the next few years will be finance and insurance firms, consulting firms, and healthcare providers.1

Competitive Salary & Benefits

A 2015 National Association of Legal Assistants & Paralegals (NALA) study on paralegal salaries indicated that the average annual paralegal salary was $55,188. According to the 2015 NALA survey, paralegals also received an average of $4,581 in bonuses each year. The BLS provides a significantly lower number, listing the average salary for paralegals in 2015 at $48,810.1 The main driver for the disparity is likely the level of professional involvement of self-selected respondents to the NALA survey as well as sample sizes; the NALA survey results are based on 1,069 responses, whereas the BLS uses much larger data sets compiled from nationwide long-term population information from the US Census Bureau and other state and federal agencies.

Within the salary ranges available, it’s important to understand that how much an individual paralegal makes depends on many factors including their background, job performance, type of employer, and area of law. It is possible for an experienced paralegal working in a highly specialized or technical field to make a six-figure salary. Most paralegal positions also include numerous other benefits such as medical, dental, life, and disability insurance, paid time off, and company match 401K or IRA accounts. Many employers also provide tuition reimbursement or pay for classes and seminars.

Average Annual Salary by State

A paralegal career offers the opportunity to perform engrossing, meaningful work in a professional atmosphere. The typical educational requirements can be completed in as little as two years with an associate’s degree, and the starting salary is reasonable – with plenty of room for growth.

Average Annual Salary in the Largest States by Population

New York: $57,920
Florida: $50,300
Texas: $53,190
Illinois: $51,120
California: $59,230

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2015.

References:
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-1
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcst.htm