Number of Jobs
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|Best Social Services Jobs||#18|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#87|
Paralegals aid attorneys in nearly every facet of the legal profession — from drafting motions to summarizing reports of legal precedent. Like lawyers, paralegals can specialize in certain types of law, such as criminal, corporate, immigration and family. Also known as legal assistants, paralegals’ involvement in 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. Paralegals work in a variety of settings, but they’re most commonly employed by law firms, government agencies and legal departments at corporations.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 16.7 percent employment growth for paralegals between 2012 and 2022, adding 46,200 positions. The anticipated growth is leaps and bounds above that of lawyers, a profession that is expected to grow only about 10 percent during the same time frame. The difference makes becoming a paralegal a great option for individuals who are interested in law but don’t want to endure the lengthy process of becoming a lawyer.
The BLS reports that the median annual salary for paralegals was $46,990 in 2012. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made $75,410, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $29,420. The highest-paid in the profession work in the metropolitan area of Washington, D.C., and four California cities: San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis Obispo and Oakland.
There are no set requirements for becoming a paralegal. Most in the profession have an associate degree in paralegal studies from a community college, and some with bachelor’s degrees obtain a certificate in paralegal studies after graduation. These certificate programs last only a few months and provide an intense introduction to the field. Before enrolling in either an associate degree or certificate program, a prospective paralegal should investigate the placement rate of recent graduates. Completing an established internship program frequently leads to being hired. 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,” wrote Tracey Young, former president of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and now a board advisor, 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 writes, 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.”
|Upward Mobility||fair Average|
|Stress Level||fair Average|
Last updated by Harriet Edleson.