|Number of Jobs:||46,900|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Social Services Jobs||#23|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#85|
Paralegals aid attorneys in nearly every facet of the legal profession—from drafting motions to summarizing reports of legal precedent. Also known as legal assistants, paralegals, like lawyers, can specialize in certain types of law, such as criminal, corporate, immigration, and family. Their involvement in legal cases depends on their employer's discretion. Some have a high degree of responsibility and autonomy, while others are restricted to narrower roles. The best paralegals are team players who work behind the scenes.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 18.3 percent employment growth for paralegals between 2010 and 2020, adding 46,900 positions. The anticipated growth is leaps and bounds above that of lawyers. The difference makes becoming a paralegal a great option for individuals who are interested in law but don't want to endure the longer process of becoming a lawyer.
The BLS reports that the median annual wage for paralegals was $46,730 in 2011. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made $75,400, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $29,390. The highest-paid in the profession work in the metropolitan areas of San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., and Washington, D.C.
There are no set requirements to becoming a paralegal. Most have an associate's degree in paralegal studies from a community college. Some holders of bachelor's degrees obtain a certificate in paralegal studies post-graduation. These certificate programs last only for a few months and provide an intense introduction to the field. Before enrolling in either an associates or certificate program, a prospective paralegal should investigate the placement rate of recent graduates. Completing an established internship program frequently leads to hiring. Some employers hire college graduates and provide their own on-the-job training.
"In a competitive job market, candidates can set themselves apart by becoming credentialed after completing their formal education," said Tracey Young, former president of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and now a board adviser, in an email. "By successfully passing a voluntary certification exam such as the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam, candidates demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the essential skills and concepts necessary to effectively work as a paralegal." To get a leg up on the competition, Young says, job seekers should "join a local paralegal association to network and get an inside track on employment opportunities, and to volunteer for pro bono opportunities with the paralegal association or bar association to get practical experience as well as network with the legal community."