Paralegal Average Salary Info
Thinking about pursuing a career as a paralegal? Discover four factors that could affect a paralegal's earning potential.
If you're pursuing a career as a paralegal, you're probably curious about what they earn-on average. It's not such a simple question to answer.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average salary for a paralegal is $50,080 annually, but paralegal salaries can vary quite a bit.*
For example, according to the Department of Labor, the bottom 10 percent of paralegals has an average annual salary of $29,800, while the top 10 percent of earners average at $75,700.*
Take a look at some of the factors that could affect a paralegal's potential earnings.
Factor #1 - Location, Location, Location
It stands to reason that a paralegal working at a prestigious law firm in a busy metropolitan area could potentially earn a higher salary than his or her small-town counterpart, and largely that's true. Washington D.C., New York City, and San Francisco top the list of highest paying metropolitan centers for paralegals, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
But this is not always the case. The highest paying city in the nation - with an average salary of $68,120 - is Stockton, which is in California's agricultural Central Valley.
Factor #2 - Who's the Boss?
The industry you choose and the type of company you work for could also affect the potential average earnings of a paralegal.
- Paralegals working in law firms, for example, have an average annual salary of $48,460.*
- Paralegals working in the law department of a corporation, on the other hand, generally tend to earn higher salaries - about $58,340 on average.
The top paying for paralegals, in terms of potential average earnings, are software publishers and medical and diagnostic laboratories, with manufacturers of petroleum and coal products coming in at number one, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Paralegals in petroleum and coal products manufacturing have an average annual mean wage of $81,150.*
Factor #3 - Education
Your qualifications could potentially affect your prospects as a paralegal, especially in the early stages of your career.
While it's true that many larger companies provide on-the-job preparation for entry-level paralegals, earning a paralegal degree could potentially teach you basic legal knowledge.
According to one example on PayScale.com, a paralegal working in a law firm had an average of $39,374 annually if he or she held some kind of paralegal degree. According to their data, if their degree was a bachelor's degree, that paralegal averaged at almost $9,000 more per year.**
Having knowledge of a specific area of the law could potentially make you more attractive to a prospective employer and help boost your average salary potential. That could explain why so many paralegal degree programs offer options for specialty courses such as family law or immigration law.
Factor #4 - Your Responsibilities
Gain on-the-job experience and showcase leadership skills, and you could potentially help position yourself for the possibility of a promotion, more responsibility… and -potentially- a higher average earning potential, too!
Paralegals who supervise teams of other paralegals, or who move to a managerial position, for example, could be compensated greatly for their increased responsibilities. Where an average paralegal salary is $36,719, a paralegal supervisor could average at $54,073**.
While these factors could all possibly influence your potential average earnings, remember: That isn't the only thing to consider when pursuing a position. Benefits such as paid personal time off, retirement benefits, and life and health insurance plans are important factors to consider, too.
*Average salary information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using May 2009 data
**Average salary information from Payscale.com