Is Being a Paralegal a Good Career Choice?

Choosing a position in the field of criminal justice is a good career choice because there are several types of jobs related to criminal justice.  Becoming an attorney is just one of the many career choices available in the criminal justice field.  However, for those who are unable to attend law school but still want to work in the legal community, being a paralegal is a good career option.  Paralegals work closely with attorneys to deliver legal services in both the private and public sectors.  Also known as legal assistants, paralegals perform important functions within the legal field.  Paralegals are employed in law firms, government agencies, corporate offices, hospitals, courts and most other businesses that have a legal department.  Because of the many job opportunities available to paralegals, choosing to become a paralegal is a good career choice.

Career DirectionReasons why being a paralegal is a good career:

  • Excellent job outlook
  • Good salary
  • Easy field to enter
  • Opportunities for advancement
  • Multiple sources of employment
  • Job stability and flexibility
  • Variety of jobs to choose from

Job outlook for paralegals

If being a paralegal was a good career choice in 2012, the outlook is expected to be even better in 2013 and beyond.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections program anticipates an 18% increase in paralegal positions, which means 46,900 new paralegal jobs between 2010 and 2020.  Being a paralegal is a good career not only because of the favorable jobs outlook but also because of the ease of access to paralegal education.

Paralegal salaries

According to the U. S. Department of Labor, the average salary for a paralegal in 2010 was $46,680 per year.  The lowest 10 percent of paralegals earned less than $29,460 while the top 10 percent earned more than $74,870 per year.  Paralegals who work for larger firms, have advanced degrees, certification or more experience tend to earn higher salaries.

Requirements for being a paralegal

Because of the low entry cost, being a paralegal is a good career option.  An individual desiring to become a paralegal can chose from a variety of education options ranging from Paralegal Certificates to Associate Degrees and Bachelor’s Degrees.  Of course, paralegals that choose to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree prior to entering the field will likely earn a higher salary and have more career options.  However, because there are no certifications required to become a paralegal, it is entirely at the discretion of the hiring attorney what level of training and education he desires a paralegal to possess prior to being employed with his firm.

When searching for a paralegal education program, it is best to choose a program that has been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).  The ABA has accredits paralegal education programs that meet its high standards for comprehensive, well-rounded paralegal education.  The list of accredited ABA paralegal programs can be found on the ABA’s website.

Opportunities for advancement

Another reason that being a paralegal is a good career choice is that it offers many opportunities for advancement.  Paralegals that choose to work in a specific area of law can apply for certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants.  This certification can help a paralegal advance in a law firm to a higher position. Some paralegals are given opportunities for management as they are given more responsibility within a law firm.  Because the role of a paralegal is defined by the attorney and the law firm, a paralegal has an excellent opportunity to advance by exhibiting to the attorney her skills as an organizer, manager and leader.

Multiple sources for employment

Another reason that being a paralegal is a good career choice is the fact that there are multiple sources of employment.  Although law firms may be the largest employers of paralegals, they are not the sole source of employment for paralegals.  Corporations, hospitals, government agencies and offices, medical departments, collection agencies and many other organizations employ paralegals.  While a paralegal must work under the supervision of an attorney, more companies are choosing to retain in-house counsel to save money on legal fees.  Therefore, these companies are also utilizing the services of paralegals to work with the attorneys to save money.  Because the employment opportunities for paralegals are continuing to expand, choosing a job as a paralegal is a wise career choice.

Job stability and flexibility

Being a paralegal is a good career choice because it offers job stability.  Attorneys will always be in demand; therefore, they will always require support staff to assist with providing legal services to their clients.  Furthermore, because the services of attorneys are not likely to diminish over time, the need for paralegals will also remain steady.

With many employers searching for ways to reduce overhead, paralegals can often negotiate schedules that are flexible.  In addition, many paralegals are able to telecommute to work depending on the type of work they do for the law firm.

Variety in the job field

Because there are so many areas of law to choose from, paralegals have many choices available to them.  Real estate and corporate law are not as emotionally charged as family law and probate law.  If a person enjoys legal research, they can choose a job in litigation as this usually requires much more legal research than say a job with a bankruptcy firm.  Someone that has an interest in medicine might want to work for a medical malpractice, worker’s compensation or personal injury law firm.  A paralegal that wants exposure to a wide variety of cases can choose to work for a general practice attorney.

Some paralegals use their experience working in a law firm as a stepping-stone to law school.  For those who are unsure if they will enjoy a career in the legal field and do not want to invest the time and money it takes to obtain a law degree, becoming a paralegal may be the first step for them to see if being an attorney is the right choice for a career.

Sources:

United States Department of Labor

National Association of Legal Assistants

American Bar Association

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

About Tonya

Tonya has a BS in Political Science in addition to her paralegal degree. During her 23 years as a paralegal, she has worked in the areas of family law, real estate, probate law and bankruptcy law. For the past 15 years, she has worked solely for bankruptcy attorneys including her time working for a bankruptcy trustee.

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