A paralegal is a professional who works with lawyers, either in a law firm or a business setting.
While you may find it appealing to work in the legal field without having to attend law school, you may want to know how much do paralegals make before you make a decision.
How Much Do Paralegals Make: Job Description and Duties
It’s important to know what a paralegal is before deciding to become one, even if you feel the expected salary of one suits you.
Basically, a paralegal is an assistant to an attorney, and they reduce their workload immensely. Paralegals create and organize legal documents.
Nowadays, most paralegals must possess computer skills because much of organizing their files consists of uploading and organizing them electronically.
Often, they’re the one who researches for the attorney and gathers evidence.
Usually, a paralegal is the person who drafts documents like contracts and creates reports regarding cases. The attorney will request that the paralegal transports documents and evidence to the appropriate places.
In many cases, the paralegal is the one who talks to clients.
In corporate settings, they must keep up with the latest laws and regulations that govern how the business is run.
What It Takes to Earn a Paralegal Salary
States don’t regulate what type of education you must obtain to enter this field.
Some employers will train you on the job. However, most individuals who want to assist attorneys complete at least a certificate or associate’s degree program in paralegal studies.
On the other hand, some obtain a bachelor’s degree and earn a certificate in paralegal studies.
If you earn a degree, you have a better chance of gaining employment in this field. Often, employers require you to have at least an associate’s degree, or they won’t even consider you.
It’s also possible they’ll hire someone who has a degree, even if it’s not a job requirement.
When you’re comparing educational institutions, you want to choose one with accreditation from the American Bar Association.
Work Environment of a Paralegal
As of 2016, paralegals and legal assistants held approximately 285,600 jobs. A majority of paralegals work in legal services, but the federal, local, and state government hires a high number of paralegals.
It’s possible to find a position in finance and insurance easily since the demand is growing.
In a majority of instances, a paralegal works with a lawyer, possibly more than one, and other legal support staff.
While most of the work they perform is in an office, they may need to travel to transport evidence and legal documents.
Often, this field is fast-paced, and a paralegal must have extraordinary organizational skills because they may take on multiple projects at one time. It’s possible they’ll need to work under tight deadlines.
Most of them, work full-time schedules and may need to work overtime to keep up with the demand.
Average Salary for a Paralegal
In the United States, the mean annual salary for a paralegal as of May 2017 was $53,910 annually, which is equivalent to $25.92 per hour while the average median salary was $50,410 per year or $24.24 per hour.
The highest paid individuals in this field earn $81,180 annually or more. This is the same as $39.03 per hour. The bottom top percent of earners made $31,130 per year or less. In terms of an hourly wage, this is equal to $14.97.
Paralegal Industry Specifics Regarding Wage and Employment
The most job opportunities are in legal service, although this isn’t where paralegals make the highest salaries.
The annual mean wage for those in legal services is $51,890 per year or $24.95 per year. The next industry with the most opportunities for people in the field is the federal executive branch, and those who work in this industry earn an annual mean wage of $69,090 or $33.21 per year.
Local governments hired the next highest number of paralegals, with individuals in this industry earning an annual mean wage of $52,960 per year. The state government, companies, and enterprises also made the list for the highest level of employment for paralegals.
None of the industries with the highest level of employment were the areas where paralegals made the most.
Paralegals make the most when they work with semiconductors and other electronic component manufacturers.
The average mean wage for this field was $86,380 or $41.53 per hour. The next highest paying industry was advertising and public relations, where individuals earned an average of $82,280 per year or $39.56 per hour.
State Specifics Regarding Wage and Employment Opportunities
California ranks as the state with the highest level of employment for paralegals. Individuals in the “Sunshine State” earn an average of $59,720 per year or $28.71 per hour. The state that ranks second on the list for states with the most employment opportunities is Florida. In this particular state, paralegals earn an average of $49,110 per year or $23.61 per hour.
New York has the next highest number of employment opportunities with individuals there earning $58,000 annually or $27.89 per year. Texas and Illinois also made the list for the states with the highest level of employment opportunities.
If you’re wondering, “how much do paralegals make,” you have to take into consideration the state where you’re looking for a job. In the District of Columbia, the annual mean wage is $78,350, which is the same as $37.67 per hour. In Alaska, the annual mean wage is $62,860 or $30.22 hourly. New Jersey has an annual mean wage of $61,650 or $29.64 per hour.
Those in the state of Washington make an annual mean wage $60,280 or $28.92 hourly, and on average, individuals in Connecticut make $60,150 per year or $28.92 per hour.
Metropolitan Areas With the Most Jobs and Highest Pay
The New York-Jersey City area has the highest level of employment, and in this region, paralegals make an average of $61,330 per year or $29.48 per hour. Los Angeles rates as the city with the second highest level of employment. Individuals in this area earn an average of $53,630 annually or $25.78 per hour.
Chicago makes the list of metropolitan areas with the highest level of employment. The median annual wage there is $58,840 annually or $28.29 per year.
Another area where jobs are plentiful is the Washington-Arlington metropolis. In that particular region, paralegals make an average of $72,010 per year or $34.62 hourly.
Other metros with the highest level of employment include Atlanta, Houston, Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Phoenix.
Only one of the metros that made the list for the top level of employment also made the list for the highest paying metros, and this particular area is Washington-Arlington. The highest paying metro is Oxnard-Thousand Oaks, where the annual mean wage is $83,370 annually or $40.08 hourly.
San Francisco is the second highest paying metropolis with the average paralegal making $79,600 per year or $38.27 per hour.
Additionally, San Jose made the list for the top paying metropolitan area. Paralegals in this region make an average of $78,220 annually or $37.61 hourly.
Job Outlook for Prospective Paralegals
If you like what you’re reading regarding how much do paralegals make, you may wonder if the chances of landing a job in this field are high.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects this field will grow by 15 percent from 2016 until 2026. This rate is much faster than average when you compare it to other professions. It’s even higher than the expected job growth for other legal support workers, which is 11 percent. This means you’re more likely to find a job as a paralegal than a legal secretary or other entry-level legal professional.
The BLS attributes the rise in jobs for legal service workers to law firms wanting to increase their efficiency while reducing costs. In addition, law firms and other potential employers are requesting the assistant of paralegals for more tasks, such as those legal secretaries and other legal support workers once completed.
Law firms charge high costs for their services, but when they’re able to utilize paralegals for more tasks, they can reduce the amount they charge their clients. This is especially important because of the competition between law firms.
A majority of paralegals will continue to work for law firms, considering they hire the most paralegals. However, the increased need for legal support in corporations will also continue to grow. Often, corporations are hiring in-house legal staff, which contributes to the increase in jobs for paralegals as well. Finance, insurance and health-related providers need legal services too, and they’re starting to hire an in-house staff as well.
In conclusion, paralegals juggle many responsibilities and might even get to travel for their job. The earning potential is high for a job that doesn’t always require a degree.