Are you feeling stuck in a career rut? Worried you will never reach your full potential? Are you considering a career change that will give you the skills you need to get ahead in today’s competitive job market? If so, earning a paralegal degree may be the perfect way to open the door to achieving your career goals.
Paralegals play an important role in the legal field, assisting attorneys with administrative and research duties. After earning a paralegal degree, you will have the knowledge and qualifications to take on various tasks in a legal setting, such as drafting legal documents, preparing for court hearings and trials, managing case files, and performing client interviews. Plus, with an average salary of $51,000 a year, the potential for a lucrative and satisfying career is within reach.
What is a Paralegal Degree?
A paralegal degree is an academic credential that qualifies students to enter legal practice fields with the necessary knowledge and skills. The American Bar Association (ABA) recognizes paralegals who are certified and licensed, making them a valuable asset in the highly competitive legal industry. A paralegal degree equips learners with a strong foundation of knowledge in all areas of law, including civil, business, real estate, wills and trusts, criminal justice, and family law. Students are often required to participate in internships and gain hands-on field experience that helps them apply their learning to real-world scenarios.
While there is no question that a paralegal degree can be beneficial for those pursuing a career in law, some people debate whether the degree is essential or not. Supporters of the degree argue that it prepares candidates for advanced positions within the legal field by providing them with fundamentals such as legal terminology and research methods specifically applicable to the profession. Furthermore, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that job growth for paralegals is projected to increase by 15 percent from 2019 to 2029 faster than the average for all occupations. This serves as evidence that obtaining a paralegal degree will not only strengthen your application but also maximize your employability within this highly-competitive sector.
Undoubtedly, having a paralegal degree under your belt can open doors to various opportunities throughout your career. From giving you command over skills any employer looks for to increasing your chances of securing your desired job, there’s no denying that this prestige degree can unlock many opportunities to establish yourself as a successful legal practitioner. Nevertheless, it is important to give proper consideration to other facets such as being certified and licensed as well so you can take full advantage of its potential rewards on offer.
Getting Certified and Licensed as a Paralegal
Completion of a paralegal degree program is just the first step toward starting a career in the field. In order to become a licensed and certified paralegal, there are additional steps required. The American Bar Association (ABA) offers a voluntary certification program designed to recognize experienced legal professionals who have achieved a high level of competency in the field. It is considered a stellar accomplishment by employers and allows you to demonstrate your commitment to excellence as well as your dedication to upholding ethical practices. Additionally, many states also require licensure, ranging from passing a written test or obtaining sanctioning from an ethics committee. Requirements vary based on the state so it’s important to research these before beginning any sort of certification process.
Though becoming certified and/or licensed can seem like added hoops to jump through during the job search process, it can be a great way for employers to quickly identify which potential employees possess superior skillsets for the position sought out. Showcasing your certifications can open up more doors in terms of career opportunities and projects that you take pride in your profession. In retailing yourself for potential employers, don’t just stop at your credentials; discuss what sets you apart from the competition with quality examples from your work experiences or internships. With the right combination of knowledge, training, and skill-sets, unlocking your career potential is achievable with the right amount of preparation and hard work.
While obtaining certifications and licensure may add an extra layer of work when pursuing a career in this field, the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience. With dedication and determination comes an array of possibilities to explore new paths within the legal community. Now that we have covered some of the basics regarding a paralegal degree and how to certify/license yourself properly, let’s dive into one of its core components: exploring all the different specialty areas available within this sector of law.
To become a paralegal, one must complete a degree program. Additionally, the American Bar Association offers optional certification and many states require licensure. Having certain credentials can be beneficial to employers and increase potential career opportunities. Additionally, showcasing applicable work experience and discussing what sets you apart from the competition is important when retailing yourself for potential employers. Although obtaining certifications and licensure may add an extra layer of work, it is worth it for the benefits it provides. After certifying/licensing yourself, there are a variety of specialty areas in legal law to explore.
The Different Specialties in the Field
While getting certified and licensed as a paralegal—which virtually, anyone holding an associate’s degree or higher can do— is an important step to unlocking your career potential in the field, looking into the different specialties offered can help you find the right fit.
Paralegals are needed in most major legal disciplines, from criminal law and litigation to corporate law and tax law, which means there are plenty of areas for you to choose from. There’s something for everyone—whether you’re comfortable working within the confines of a structured office setting or are willing to tackle short-term specialized contracts. The specific specialty you choose will depend on your experience, education, and interests.
For example, if you’re interested in drafting contracts and managing regulatory compliance, partaking in transactional law might be the best option for you. On the other hand, more dynamic positions like litigation paralegals require superb computer skills and research abilities— but if that’s something that interests you, the pay and advancement opportunities could be substantial. Ultimately, it pays off to know all the options out there so that you can make an informed decision on what you’d like to pursue.
No matter what legal niche you specialize in, one thing is certain: having a paralegal degree gives you access to various career opportunities.
The Career Opportunities That Come with a Paralegal Degree
The career opportunities afforded to those who have achieved a Paralegal Degree are vast. With such a degree, you have the option of working in almost any industry imaginable. While some may opt for more traditional legal service roles, there is no shortage of unique and exciting opportunities that can make the most of your educational background.
Particularly useful to those with an eye toward law is the ability to work in a myriad of judicial settings, such as federal court, criminal law, civil litigation, corporate law, or family law. Whatever area you choose to specialize in, the degree is necessary; each specialty requires its own set of skills, knowledge and experience. By understanding the different specialties within the field and choosing one that best meets your unique needs, you can unlock your full potential as a Paralegal professional.
Moreover, because paralegals typically work as extensions of attorneys in private practice or government agencies, you can also get involved in areas such as research or legal technical support. These roles don’t require advanced legal training but often highlight skills such as organizational capability and attention to detail. Furthermore, by pursuing a Paralegal degree through a well-regarded institution or program, you will be very attractive to employers looking for employees with both specific qualifications and top-tier educational backgrounds as a whole.
Your journey into becoming a Paralegal does not end with acquiring a degree; now comes the time for experience building and honing your specialized skillset even further. Moving forward, we’ll discuss your responsibilities when it comes to working directly with lawyers and their clients.