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.
Entry-Level Paralegal Salaries
According to Payscale.com, entry-level paralegals earned between $30,000 and $51,000 annually as of March 2021. 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 (2019-2029)||10% (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 2019, metropolitan areas in the District of Columbia, Colorado, California, Massachusetts, 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 2019, the highest paid industries for paralegals and legal secretaries are grantmaking and giving services; natural gas distribution; motor vehicle manufacturing; semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing; and other information services. Average salaries in these industries in 2019 ranged from $79,580-$91,110 per year, 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 June 2019, the salary range for entry-level corporate paralegals was between $35,000 and $66,000, while litigation paralegals with the same amount of experience earned between $32,000 and $59,000 per year.
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
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).