Best Paralegal Jobs for You

Candidates pursuing careers in the legal field but not interested in practicing law often acquire jobs as paralegals. Legal issues requiring the assistance of law firms are constant in the U.S. today and qualified paralegals with a strong education are therefore in constant demand. Paralegals serve in administrative, support and research capacities for lawyers and law firms. Paralegals also attain invaluable insights pursuant to the inner workings of the American legal system. 

What are the best types of paralegal jobs for you? What types of degree does one need to possess to get a job as a paralegal and what are the requirements to obtain one? Read ahead for useful information about how obtaining a paralegal degree helps qualify you for the best paralegal jobs available today.

How to Obtain a Paralegal Degree

The first step to obtaining a paralegal degree is deciding on your career path. A job as a paralegal inserts you into the legal field but is not necessarily a direct path to becoming a practicing lawyer. Paralegal studies are useful because of the relevant knowledge they impart upon you but are not a direct part of actual law school leading to a subsequent bar examination and license as a practicing attorney.

Once you understand your career goals the next step is to assess your finances and financial aid opportunities. Do you prefer to study online only are on a physical campus? An application process including the submission of all required documents and information must also be completed.

Deciding on Your Career Path

While most paralegals obtain jobs in law firms of varying sizes, not all do. For example, corporate, real estate, title insurance and government paralegals are all in-demand today. Knowing the specific field in which you wish to work helps you choose the best paralegal degree program and school for your career goals.

Virtual or In-Person Learning

Virtual and in-person learning environments are both equally popular in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic forced most educational institutions to adopt online learning and its popularity maintained. In-person and virtual courses provide the same quality of education but online classes commonly offer more flexibility and convenience for modern students. Studying to become a paralegal is well suited for virtual learning situations. Many paralegal certificate programs taught both online and through community colleges provide enough education to qualify you for a job as an entry-level paralegal. Paralegal associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs are also available online/on-campus. Therefore, the decision to enroll in a virtual or in-person learning system is largely dependent on preference and availability of the programs you need. 

Accredited Courses & Schools

Whether you attend a virtual or in-person paralegal program, it is vital to select one facilitated by an accredited school. Accredited education institutions are approved by an accrediting agency and meet the highest standards of paralegal programs and courses available. Accredited online degree programs are available as are accredited in-person courses. Employers view degrees obtained from accredited institutions as more valuable, which in turn increases your hiring and salary potential.

Tuition Costs & Financial Aid

The costs of an education in paralegal studies vary based on the level of education obtained. Certificate programs cost an average of $5,550 per program. Tuition for degree programs costs between $500 and $23,000+/year. This wide range of tuition costs indicates the need to be prepared for varied education-based costs including books, supplies & commuting/moving expenses as applicable. Assessing your individual/household finances to know what costs are affordable is an important step. Applying for financial aid such for Federal Pell Grants is also possible via the free Federal Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Specific school-awarded scholarships might also be available for you if qualified.

How to Apply

Application processes are conducted online or by mail. It is important to first consult with the admissions offices for all your preferred schools to make sure you have all required documents and information. Required documents/information commonly needed includes:

  • Personal information such as name, address, U.S. citizenship/resident status.
  • Social Security Number (SSN) & state driver’s license/photo I.D.
  • Personal/household financial information.
  • Character & academic references.
  • High school transcripts & Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores.
  • Any additional information about extracurricular activities, academic merit & personal accomplishments.

Requirements

Requirements to enter a paralegal educational program depend on the type of program pursued and various other factors. For example, some paralegal certificate programs are open to high school graduates looking to fast-track their way into the workforce. Other certificate programs require a minimum of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in some form of paralegal studies as a condition of enrollment.

Each school has its own minimum grade point average (GPA) requirements. GPAs minimums are stricter for more intense degree programs as well. Certain course prerequisites such as English and mathematics are common for all paralegal programs although certain specialized certificate programs might have different requirements.

Because paralegal careers are part of the regulated legal field, the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) recommends all paralegals complete at least eighteen semester credit hours of paralegal classes. Sixty post-secondary semester credit hours via American Bar Association (ABA)-approved programs are also recommended. Required courses specific to obtaining various paralegal degrees might include:

  • American legal system studies.
  • Paralegal professional services 101.
  • Legal research/writing.
  • Ethics.
  • Legal-based interviewing & investigating.
  • Legal-based computer training.
  • Office management.
  • Substantive & procedural law.
  • Delivery procedures of legal services.

Certain states enforce specific regulations and requirements pursuant to obtaining paralegal jobs post-graduation. California requires paralegals to constantly uphold regulated qualification standards. The Utah State Bar enforces certain laws/rules pursuant to paralegal job standards and the Washington State Supreme Court has its own paralegal regulatory requirements.

The Best Paralegal Jobs for Your Paralegal Degree

Paralegal salaries are impacted by the level of your degree, the state where you work and the organization with which you are employed. Projected growth rate for paralegal positions is approximately ten percent through 2029, which means job security is also strong. Paralegal jobs pay between $50,000 and $80,000/year. Law firm, corporate, nursing, judicial, government & other paralegal positions are all available. Additional jobs best suited for your paralegal degree include:

  • Arbitrator. 
  • Mergers & acquisitions.
  • Intelligence analyst.
  • Legal administrator.
  • Community-based non-governmental organization (NGO).
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