Before we break down, whether you need to go back to school, let’s learn about the Paralegal career.
Paralegals are also known as legal assistants who work in a private firm or public sector under the guidance of lawyers (as they are not qualified to practice law). These individuals perform tasks that require the implementation of legal procedures with the knowledge of the law.
This fast-growing industry plays a crucial role in a firm’s success. Paralegals help attorneys with tasks that will allow them to serve their clients best before, during, and after trials.
The average annual salary for a paralegal in the United States is $45,693 a year.
What type of education do Paralegals need?
To become a paralegal, you must complete a paralegal studies program accredited by the American Bar Association and earn a certificate. The vast majority of paralegals have an Associate’s degree in Paralegal studies, while some may pursue a Bachelor’s degree and even a Master’s degree.
A paralegal Associate’s degree program will introduce you to fundamental classes related to this career as well as the general education requirements. You can obtain your Associate’s degree in about 18 months.
If you went to college for another career and would like to pursue Paralegal now, it’s not too late. By completing a paralegal certificate program. Those with a prior college education that covers general courses can become paralegals in as little as eight months.
Enrolling in an accredited program is very important. Use the American Bar Association search tool to find ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs.
Paralegal Certification Program
The Paralegal Certification program was established as a supplement for those who pursued a different field of study. Students enrolled in the said program are given the necessary tools to succeed in this career path by taking courses specific to the law and paralegal industry. You should expect to take courses related to law practice, such as Intro to Legal Research, Ethical Communication, and Legal Writing.
The Associate’s degree and certificate business are relatively similar as they both assist in the career development of those pursuing this career path.
Like any other career, Paralegal comes with benefits and drawbacks that you should be aware of.
Benefits of Becoming a Paralegal
- High employment outcome – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects about 46,200 new paralegal jobs added to the job market by 2022.
- Opportunity to grow – You will have a chance to advance to a management position.
- Job flexibility – Paralegals have the flexibility to work in various industries and/or become self-employed.
- Case Variation – If you like to spice things up, this career path will do that for you. Your cases may be different which will allow you to become an expert in various subjects.
- Ability to help others – Paralegals are in a position to help their clients in stressful situations.
- Low Education Cost – Paralegals can earn a degree in as little as 1-2 years. Although some schools offer paralegal certificates, many high paying jobs prefer candidates from an ABA-approved paralegal school.
Drawbacks of Becoming a Paralegal
- Long Work hours – Paralegals work irregular hours and often work more than 40 hours a week due to strict deadlines, high workloads, and dwindling workforce. Sometimes, holidays or any other important dates may be compromised.
- High Stress – This industry is very demanding and requires tasks to be completed by a specific time per courts’ schedules.
- Humble Task Assignments – Paralegals work under the supervision of lawyers, and their roles are limited by the Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL) rule.
- Limited Opportunities for Career Advancement – Although Paralegals have the opportunity to reach a management position, climbing up the latter can be a slow process.
- Lack of Appreciation – For years now, Paralegals have complained about the lack of appreciation and respect they receive from firms. Coworkers often understate paralegals’ roles. Many have to emphasize their capabilities within the firm repeatedly.
Your previous education history and availability may influence your decision to go back to school to be a paralegal. There are other factors to consider, but we trust that you’ll choose what’s best for you.