Table of Contents
There are several paths to becoming a paralegal. One can enrol in a community college paralegal program to earn an associate’s degree. A limited number of schools also offer bachelor’s and master's degrees in paralegal studies. For those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject, they can also earn a certificate in paralegal studies. Some employers may also hire entry-level paralegals without any experience or education in paralegal studies and train them on the job, although these jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree.
Associate’s and bachelor's degree programs in paralegal studies usually combine courses in legal research and the legal applications of computers with other academic subjects. Most certificate programs provide this paralegal training for people who already hold college degrees. Some certificate programs only take a few months to complete.
Many paralegal training programs also offer an internship, in which students gain practical experience by working for several months in a private law firm, a corporate legal department, the office of a public defender or attorney general, a government agency or a legal aid organization. Internship experience helps the students improve technical skills and can enhance their employment prospects.
Sometimes employers hire college graduates with no legal experience or education and train them on the job. In these cases, the new employee often has experience in a technical field that is useful to law firms, such as criminal justice or tax preparation. That being said, employers prefer candidates who have at least one year of experience in a law firm or other office setting and have technical understanding of a specific legal specialty. For example, a personal-injury law firm may desire a paralegal with a background in health administration or nursing. It is particularly important for people who do not have formal paralegal training to have work experience in a law firm or other office setting.
Many local and national paralegal organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications to students able to pass an exam. Yet other organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications for those who meet certain experience and education criteria.
Paralegals usually require less supervision and are given more responsibilities as they gain work experience, and experienced paralegals may delegate assignments to clerical staff and other paralegals.
What are Paralegals like?
Based on our pool of users, paralegals tend to be predominately investigative people. Take our career test to see what career interest category best describes you.
Paralegals by Strongest Interest Archetype
Based on sample of 1573 Sokanu users
Are Paralegals happy?
Paralegals rank among the least happy careers. Overall they rank in the 12th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores.
Paralegal Career Satisfaction by Dimension
Percentile among all careers
Education History of Paralegals
The most common degree held by paralegals is Political Science. 6% of paralegals had a degree in political science before becoming paralegals. That is over 2 times the average across all careers. English Literature graduates are the second most common among paralegals, representing 5% of paralegals in the Sokanu user base, which is 1.1 times the average.
Paralegal Education History
This table shows which degrees people earn before becoming a Paralegal, compared to how often those degrees are obtained by people who earn at least one post secondary degree.
|Degree||% of paralegals||% of population||Multiple|
|Business Management And Administration||2.9%||6.2%||0.5×|
|Philosophy And Religious Studies||1.8%||1.5%||1.2×|
|Foreign Language Studies||1.2%||1.3%||1.0×|
Paralegal Education Levels
|High school diploma||5%|
How to Become a Paralegal
How Long Does It Take To Become A Paralegal: Two Distinct Paths
Although a formal paralegal education is not required, it is helpful as is the optional paralegal certification.
Skills and knowledge tested by certification examinations include an advanced knowledge of legal procedure, ethics and substantive law as well as research, communication and writing skills.
Find your perfect career
Would you make a good paralegal? Sokanu's free assessment reveals how compatible you are with a career across 5 dimensions!
Designed for a short course on paralegal careers, this easy-to-use text introduces paralegal students to the paralegal profession. Written with the insight from a former paralegal, "An Introduction to Paralegal Careers" focuses on what paralegal students are interested in learning about their chosen profession - from what they'll be doing to where to find the right paralegal position.
Paralegal Career Guide
This Third Edition will guide readers to transform their career. Readers will be rewarded with wonderful relationships with bosses, coworkers, and peers.
Paralegal Career For Dummies
Apply important legal concepts and skills you need to succeed. Want a new career as a paralegal but don't know where to start? Paralegal Career For Dummies is the practical, hands-on guide to all the basics - from getting certified to landing a job and getting ahead.
Paralegal's Litigation Handbook
The Paralegal's Litigation Handbook, Second Edition, by Carole Bruno shows practicing paralegals and paralegal students (and law clerks) how to perform litigation procedures more efficiently and effectively. This seminal handbook contains countless quick and practical techniques to simplify the paralegal's job - all explained with clear "how to" directions and illustrated with numerous checklists, charts, sample pleadings and forms.
The Legal Assistant's Letter Book
This unique guide provides paralegals with a foundation for writing effective correspondence in the law or corporate office. It offers training using all of the practical tools for writing clear, accurate and concise documents. Although discussions focus mainly on legal communications, most of the guidelines offered can be applied to corporate or other professional settings.
Paralegal Practice & Procedure Fourth Edition: A Practical Guide for the Legal Assistant
Now fully revised and expanded: the bestselling desk reference for paralegals at any level. Each chapter has been completely updated to include the latest step-by-step instructions for every aspect of a paralegal's job, with new procedures, checklists, and resources throughout.