What Is the Average Salary for Entry-Level Paralegal Positions?

As a paralegal or legal assistant, you can play an active part in the judicial system and take on much of the same work as a lawyer. Read on to learn more about the typical salaries and job requirements for entry-level paralegals. Schools offering Paralegal degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Entry-Level Paralegal Salaries

According to Payscale.com, entry-level paralegals earned between $25,143 and $52,234 annually as of September 2015. Your starting salary as a paralegal can vary from this estimate based on your location, employer and legal specialization.

Work Environment Office, law library
Similar Occupations Lawyer, claims adjuster, administrative assistant
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 17% (for paralegals and legal assistants)
Key Skills Communication, research, organization, technology

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Location and Other Factors

If you live in a larger city, your starting salary might be higher than that of a paralegal working in a smaller town. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that as of May 2014, metropolitan areas in the District of Columbia, Alaska, California, New Jersey, and Washington all offered higher average salaries that were greater than the national average for paralegals and legal assistants (www.bls.gov).

The kind of business you work for can also affect your salary; some paralegals are employed at law firms and corporate legal departments, while others work in the public sector for state or federal government departments. The BLS stated that as of May 2014, the highest paid industries for paralegals and legal secretaries are semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing; software publishers; professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers; information services; and pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing. Average salaries in these industries in 2012 ranged from $72,530-$82,810 per year in 2012, according to the BLS.

In addition, you may choose to specialize in an area of law, such as litigation, family law, personal injury or estate law. Some of these specializations may provide paralegals with slightly higher starting salaries. Payscale.com reported that as of September 2015, the salary range for entry-level corporate paralegals with one to four years experience was between $35,670 and $73,318, while litigation paralegals with the same amount of experience earned between $31,007 and $57,643 per year.

Education Options

You might receive a higher entry-level salary if you complete an associate's or bachelor's degree program in legal assisting or paralegal studies. Paralegal programs can provide an overview of several areas of law and teach you the fundamental skills needed to assist attorneys with common legal practices. Your courses may include the following subjects:

  • Business law
  • Legal writing
  • Family law
  • Criminal law
  • Bankruptcy law
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Ethics of law

Certification

Although it is not required, you might seek certification through a professional organization to increase your employability and potential salary as a paralegal. In general, professional certification agencies require you to have experience working as a paralegal in order to qualify for testing. However, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) provides certification to entry-level paralegals. If you graduate from an approved associate's degree, bachelor's degree or certificate paralegal training program, you can apply for testing to become a Certified Paralegal (www.nala.org).

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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