Becoming a paralegal in today's economy may be more of a challenge than in the past. At one time, anyone could become a paralegal (also called a legal secretary) and work side-by-side with an attorney. Today's paralegal position is much more demanding and complicated than taking on the role of a secretary, however. Now paralegal play a vital role in any law setting acting in a professional support role to lawyers, performing many of the tasks that would typically fall on the attorney.
Even with the economical downturn, the average paralegal salary still makes it an attractive career path for many who enjoy the legal field. The salary range may be as low as $13,000 a year for an untrained entry-level paralegal, up to six figures for a skilled paralegal acting in a managerial role. There are many factors that bear on how much a paralegal earns; education, job location, and employers will all impact salaries.
The paralegal profession has changed over the years with many levels of training available to those entering the field. The paralegal salary will vary depending on how much experience and formal training they have. For instance, in 2010 the national average yearly salary for a paralegal was just above $46,000 annually according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This figure can change once a paralegal factors in their education and experience.
In San Jose, California for instance, a litigation paralegal manager can expect an annual income of about $120,000. A job of this nature requests that applicants have at least five years of prior experience in the field as well as management experience and hold a bachelor's degree.
On the other end of the spectrum, a paralegal specialist in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan can expect to earn around $20,000 for the first year. The requirements for this junior position still demands an associate's degree as well as five years of previous legal work history. Just as education can affect salaries, the same is true for job location.
The same position of paralegal specialist offered in a large metropolitan area versus a small city can affect how much a paralegal will make. A recent posting for a paralegal specialist on Indeed.com in Washington D.C. indicated a salary between $56,000.00 to $99,000.00 a year. This position required completion of a certificate program and one year in a particular specialty. It also sought candidates with agency certification designations. In a small city in Ohio, a similar position offered just under $30,000 a year and required experience only.
Larger cities tend to offer greater salaries across the board. Living expenses in larger cities are often higher; therefore, employers may compensate their employees to offset these expenses. If there isn't an offset, these costs could reduce the actual value of an attractive salary.
Another element to consider is the employer. For instance, government positions may offer less income than a comparable private firm; yet have a greater degree of job stability. When compared to private firms that promise large salaries but don't have a strong client foundation, the security of a government paralegal position may be more attractive.
When looking at paralegal salaries, it is important to consider all aspects of compensation, not just yearly income. Some jobs may offer benefits such as healthcare, paid vacations, educational scholarships, and other similar benefits. Factoring these into an income may cause a modest mid-range income to exceed higher salaries that don't offer additional perks.
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