Career Outlook: Paralegal
Paralegals play an important role in the legal industry, working side-by-side with lawyers and performing multiple duties. Aside from writing reports and drafting legal documents, paralegals generally conduct research on relevant laws and regulations, gather the facts and evidence of a case and assist lawyers in preparing for hearings and trials.
As with most careers, the duties of a paralegal will vary significantly based on their specialty. There are many specializations in the field of law, including criminal law, immigration, personal injury and intellectual property, and their roles depend on the different specifications of each sub-field. For example, corporate paralegals are involved in preparing employee contracts, shareholder agreements and financial reports, and generally focus their research on government regulations and the legal requirements of corporations.
Jobs in Demand
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the legal services industry hires around 76% of all paralegals. Others work for federal, state and local governments or in the finance industry. These industries generally look for prospective paralegals who can stay organized and communicate well with their colleagues. The work can be fast-paced, so being able to manage multiple projects with tight deadlines is also key. Candidates who have strong research, database management or computer skills usually have the best job prospects. There are several educational paths to becoming a paralegal, but according to the BLS, the most common is obtaining an associates’ degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree in another field combined with a certificate in paralegal studies.
- Projected Job Growth by 2026: 18%
- 2020 Median Pay: $52,920 annually
- Typical entry-level education: Associate’s degree
- Number of jobs in 2019: 337,800
- Job outlook 2019-2029: 10% (much faster than average)
- % Growth in Postings from 2019 to 2020: 28%
Though law is generally a predictable field, job growth for paralegals has been steadily growing over the past several years as law firms work to increase their efficiency. BLS has also predicted that the career outlook for paralegals will skyrocket within the next decade, estimated at about 10% overall growth, which is over twice the average growth rate.
As a paralegal or legal assistant, earning certifications widens your career prospects and demonstrates your proficiency. Some states require paralegals to hold certificates approved by the American Bar Association. You can also take the paralegal certification exam offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or attend certification programs offered by universities nationwide. According to NALA’s 2020 Salary Survey, paralegals who obtained their training from paralegal certificate programs are among the highest paid.
Working in the legal services industry provides a strong foundation of experience and skills that can be applied across industries. Paralegals can advance to management positions or by becoming self-employed. Many also go on to become attorneys themselves after attending law school.
Earning an academic certificate in paralegal studies is a great way to develop your skills and open the gateway to a career as a paralegal. We offer an online Paralegal Studies Certificate Program for those interested in entering the profession, in addition to over 20 online Paralegal Specialist Programs for professional paralegals who want to enhance their knowledge within specific areas of law.
Need help getting started?
Reach out to enrollment coach Cathy Zhao for one-on-one help answering your questions and finding the right program to fit your schedule and goals.
Approved by the UC Davis School of Law, our Paralegal Studies Certificate Program offers an unparalleled and dynamic educational experience through expert instruction provided by members of the bar association. In just six months, you’ll gain core skills that any law firm looks for in a paralegal, including interviewing, evidence and investigation, litigation, advocacy and motions, document preparation, file maintenance, legal correspondence, research, writing and analysis. You will have access to resources like LexisNexis and Westlaw research databases, as well as interactive study support.
- Enroll at any time and complete in 6 months
- Completely online
- Discounts available
- Related article: Do Paralegals Need Degrees?