While this article focuses on paralegal positions in the United States, paralegal positions are in great demand in any first-world society. Be sure to check with your local jurisdiction for specifics that pertain to your situation.
The global recession has left millions of individuals wondering where there jobs went. Most have realized that those positions aren’t coming back. It has also left millions of individuals just entering the workforce (or about to enter the workforce) confused about their career alternatives. At the same time, college tuition is increasing, significantly outpacing inflation. In this uncertain environment, whether you have twenty years’ worth of experience under your belt or you’re taking on your first (of many) thousand dollars of educational debt, you would be well served to consider a job as a paralegal.
Many high school students do not hear about this choice from their counselors, and many people who are already in college do not realize that they can shift their focus from their current major to paralegal studies at many public universities.
Not only do paralegals have an outstanding job outlook currently, but there is often less education and certification required to become a high earning paralegal than there is for many other career paths. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the United States, an average starting income for a paralegal is in the $40,000’s per year. This is higher than the average income for teachers, social workers, and many other career options and that’s just the starting salaries
Successful paralegals can earn well into six-figure territory, though that level of success doesn’t come easily. It generally requires specialization in a profitable legal niche and a lot of hard work. However, the opportunity for paralegals, which is all that one can really ask for. Not only do paralegals earn quite a bit of money, but they are also afforded the opportunity at a relatively less-expensive education (for instance, when compared to a teacher with a Masters of Arts).
Great Return on your Educational Expenses
Most technical colleges and community colleges offer courses for paralegal associate degrees. This being said, there is an increasing demand, and higher pay, for paralegals who pursue a four year degree in paralegal studies. However, many certification programs, and even some paralegal degree programs are offered online, which is often less expensive than going to a traditional college. In other words, for the amount of earning potential and employment rate of a paralegal as compared to the cost of education for paralegals currently, this career is one of the best deals around.
The financial rewards and incentives are significant for paralegals, but beyond that, a career as a paralegal is intellectually challenging and mentally rewarding. There are few people who can read a legal text and understand its meaning, or dig through archives for hours on end searching for the single detail that can make or break a case; paralegals are paid to do just that. So, even though becoming a paralegal often requires minimal education for hire, this career path is not for people lacking in mental acumen or work ethic.
Sunshine and Roses
Being a paralegal is not all roses, but no high-paying career is. Like any area of work, succeeding in a career as a paralegal requires hard work and dedication. While the time in the classroom may be less than that required for some other professional positions; it is offset by time in the field, in a real-life work situation learning the ropes. In addition, paralegals have continuing education requirements; but so do most professional positions, from accountants to teachers. While continuing education generally isn’t free (some employers pay for it as part of employee investment), it also provides paralegals with an opportunity to stay up to date on the latest legal trends and to identify future employment or career opportunities.
The reason salaries are high is that demand is as well. As our society has become increasingly litigious, the demand for paralegals has grown. From patent law to criminal law, legal proceedings are on the rise. According to the same Bureau of Labor Statistics report cited above, demand for paralegals is expected to be 8% from the period 2010 to 2020, which is 4% higher than the average demand for all other occupations.
Paralegals are at the center of any successful attorney’s practice and in any strategy for leveraging that attorney (or team of attorneys). A paralegal who demonstrates their worth is in great demand as it enables an attorney to do more for less. That added profit margin often results in an increased salary for the contributing paralegal. It’s a team effort and good attorneys recognize that. If they don’t, good paralegals are easily able to find employment elsewhere.
While a career as a paralegal isn’t for everyone it is certainly worth considering. Many of the unemployed claim that they “just want to work.” Why settle? As a paralegal, you may very well find a rewarding, well-paying career with more opportunity than you can shake a stick at.
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