Paralegal Salary



How much can you earn as a paralegal? According to Payscale.com, the national average salary in the United States for paralegals is between $33,000 and $52,000 per year (November 2010).





The true income potential for people who choose this career depends on a number of factors. Not surprisingly, paralegals who have a higher degree of education can demand higher wages. A paralegal who received on the job training would likely start out at the lower end of the pay scale.

A graduate from an Associate’s degree program in Paralegal Studies can expect to make $34,000 in an entry-level position and the high end of the salary scale for a person with these qualifications is $47,000. Completing a Bachelor’s degree means more time in school, but it does pay off in a higher rate of pay. Graduates of a four-year program can expect to earn $36,000 as a junior paralegal and the average rate of pay at the top end of the pay scale for people in this category is 55,000 per annum.

As a paralegal gains experience, he or she (the vast majority of people working in the field are women) can command a higher salary. The following is the breakdown by years of experience:

  • Less than 12 months: 28,000-$38,000
  • 1-4 Years: $31,000-$43,000
  • 5-9 Years: $37,000-$52,000
  • 10-19 Years: $40,000–$60,000
  • Over 20 Years: $43,000-$64,000

Other Factors that Affect Salary

Level of education is not the only factor that affects salary levels for paralegals. Geographic location also determines how much you can expect to earn. Salaries in large urban centers tend to be higher than in less densely populated areas, but the cost of living is also higher.

The type of employer you choose to work for also determines how much money you can make. Not surprisingly, the highest wages for paralegal positions are paid by federal government departments and agencies ($41,000-$64,000). Self-employed and contract paralegals tend to be on the lower end of the salary curve, with earnings of between $30,000-$47,000 per year.

Working for a lawyer in private practice is the most common employment arrangement for paralegals, and you can expect to make $35,000-$51,000 with this type of employer. Pay rates may be higher at a large law firm, since they tend to service clients who have deeper pockets than a sole practitioner. Working at a smaller law firm can provide more flexibility in work experience, though, since there are fewer support staff available to perform client work.

How to Boost Your Earnings as a Paralegal

If you want to earn top dollar as a paralegal consider completing the exams required to get certified after you have finished your formal education. Having Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP) after your name distinguishes you as a high quality candidate when applying for jobs and you can use it as a tool to command a higher paralegal salary.

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