Paralegal Education Options
Is a paralegal career path for you? Keep reading to find out.
Love the law? Like the idea of helping to uphold justice?
Is Erin Brockovich your role model? You might want to consider preparing to pursue a career as a paralegal.
For those who don't know, Erin Brockovich is the legal researcher who played a pivotal role in the famous 1993 case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California. Portrayed by Julia Roberts, her story was told in the Academy Award-nominated movie aptly titled "Erin Brockovich".
While the real-life Brockovich was able to make her mark in the legal world with no formal law school education, to begin your search in today's competitive job market, you may be better off getting some education.
If the law is your first love and you hope to make a difference, here's what you need to know about pursuing a career as a paralegal.
Typical Paralegal Duties:
Paralegals do a lot of the same work as lawyers. In a typical day, you might be asked to research laws and legal articles, collect data for a case, update case files, talk to clients, arrange court dates, or prepare case materials for trial.
In order to keep pace, you'll need to brush up on your computer skills, stay organized, and be ready to switch tasks as needed. You'll also need to work well alongside others, as paralegals often work as a team, sharing case information and research.
Potential Paralegal Career Opportunities:
As companies look for new ways to save money, many are turning to paralegals to do more of the work traditionally done by lawyers. In fact the U.S. Department of Labor projects that the number of paralegals and legal assistants will grow 22 percent between 2008 and 2018. This is good news for you if you're attempting to join the estimated 275,000 paralegals currently employed.
Hot areas in the paralegal field include environmental law, health care, criminal law, and elder issues.
Most companies will provide on-the-job preparation for entry-level paralegals, but having a paralegal degree could potentially set you apart from the competition in a competitive job market.
An associate's degree or bachelor's degree in paralegal studies represent two options for those aspiring to pursue this career; an associate's degree could potentially take less time to complete than a bachelor's degee, depending on your course load. Some paralegal degree programs also offer internship opportunities, which could allow you to graduate with work experience along with your paralegal degree.
If you already have a bachelor's degree, you can look into earning a certificate in paralegal studies through a number of schools.
Paralegal Average Earning Potential:
It's important to note that earning potential varies widely by state as well as by industry. Corporate earnings tend to be higher than those for law firms. On average, salaries in the District of Columbia, New York, and California are higher than elsewhere, according to the U.S Department of Labor.
The average paralegal salary is about $50,080 annually, according to 2009 Department of Labor figures.