Once you choose to become a paralegal, you will need to determine your schooling goals. You can get an Associate’s, a Bachelor’s, or a Master’s degree in paralegal studies. If time is short, you may start with an Associate’s, find an entry-level job, and move up in the legal world as you build up your training.
What does a paralegal do?
Paralegals support attorneys. There may be legal offices and solo attorneys that will allow you to work remotely, so you may be able to work as a freelancer, a part-time employee or a full-time employee from a remote location. To start, your ability to learn the job will probably be easier in person.
In your support of attorneys, you may find yourself
- filing legal documents
- editing and drafting some forms of communication
- managing legal calendars
Any documentation you create will need to be approved by the attorney you support. Depending on the field of your choice, you may also find yourself doing research and interviewing clients.
The average salary of paralegals by state
As of 2018, the average salary of paralegals across the nation was just over $51,000 per year. Once you have picked your field of study on reliable sites like ParalegalEDU.org, you get a bigger picture of the paralegal salary. It will be based on
- Your level of study
- Your years of experience
- Your additional marketable skills
- The state where you were hired
For example, you will likely meet the national average in the state of Vermont. You will make approximately $9,000 less per year if you are hired in Arkansas. You will make approximately $10,000 more than the annual average if hired in California. Because the cost of living across the nation varies widely, your ability to make enough to live well increases with more training and more experience.
Location and Specialty Considerations
If you plan to work in Texas, you can expect a higher income than the starting national average. You can make yourself a more valuable employee by building skills in oil and gas law. You can also improve your versatility by adding another language to your repertoire.
As a general rule, regions of the country with a higher population density will offer you more work and a higher salary. However, these regions generally also have a much higher cost of living. Your quality of life must be considered if you’re interested in relocating for a higher salary.
The coastal states, both east and west, offer the highest salaries. Alaska is particularly lucrative, and the District of Columbia offers the highest income for paralegals.
One of the biggest benefits of the paralegal career is that you can start working with an Associate degree. If you live in a city with ample law firms, consider looking for an online schooling program that you can take in the evenings while you look for an entry-level position in a law firm. Learn the rhythms and intensity of the legal profession, so you know what to expect as a paralegal.