Paralegal Average Salary



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What is the paralegal average salary?

When researching a career field this is one of the most important questions to know. There are many others to ask, but salary weighs in substantially.

Many of us have bills and families to support. You may be changing careers? Or maybe you're re-entering the workforce? You need a job that will grow into a lucrative career.

Figuring out the numbers now will aid you in your decision should you choose to pursue further education.

So what exactly determines the average salary of a paralegal?

  • geography;
  • experience;
  • education;
  • specialization; and
  • skill set.

For example, a paralegal average salary in California's Bay Area is approximately $57,000 a year. That's about 18% higher than the national average.

A senior paralegal in the Bay Area earns upwards of $70,000 a year.

Your location affects your earning potential. If you live in a one-law-office-town your income potential is greatly limited. Certainly cities will offer much more in pay and benefits than small towns.

Experience is an important determining factor. If you're new you'll start around $40,000.

When I graduated from my paralegal program, that's what I was offered without any experience.

Armed with an ABA certification, a bachelor's degree and a positive, eager-to-learn attitude, I couldn't get much more than 40k a year.

That may sound like a lot in some areas of the United States, but Bay Area living is more expensive than other parts of the country.

Naturally, a paralegal average salary here will be quite different than in other regions.

All the same, your education impacts your earning potential. Whether you've got a bachelor's degree or a certificate, affects a paralegal's average salary.

Firms pay more for paralegals with a bachelor's degree even if it's not related to law. You're critical thinking skills honed during your undergraduate degree mean something to law offices. They presume you're writing and problem solving skills are better than average.

Some law firms will train in house staff to become paralegals. While these opportunities exist they are not readily available. If you're hired as a legal secretary and demonstrate a desire to learn, there are several law firms willing to train you.

Influencing the paralegal average salary is the specialization you choose. If you work in the Silicon Valley doing patent law or intellectual property you can almost write your own ticket.

These types of attorneys are already very expensive to retain for companies needing to protect their trademarks and original work from thieves. Handing off less complicated tasks to a paralegal who understands the process and deadlines is a huge bonus to these offices.

Conversely, if you work in areas of family law and probate, you'll always have work. People marry, divorce and and eventually pass away leaving an estate. Naturally the heirs want what they believe to be theirs and they may litigate their claims.

This specialization offers ongoing work that can lend itself to freelance paralegal opportunities as well.

Below are some interesting statistics taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008.

Industries Hiring Most Paralegals:

EmploymentHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Legal Services$23.30$48,460
Federal Executive Branch$30.08$62,570
Local Government$24.27$50,480
State Government$21.23$44,160
Management of Companies and Enterprises$28.05$58,340

Top Paying Industries:

IndustryHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing$39.02$81,150
Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories$34.89$72,560
Software Publishers$33.98$70,680
Professional and Commercial Equipment$33.48$69,650
Computer/Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing$33.27$69,200

Top Paying States:

StatesHourly mean wage Annual mean wage
District of Columbia$31.14$64,760
New York$28.91$60,140
California$28.50$59,270
Illinois$26.29$54,690
Alaska$25.31$52,640

Metropolitan Areas With Highest Concentration of Paralegals:

  • Charleston, WV
  • Bowling Green, KY
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
  • Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Metropolitan Division
  • Cheyenne, WY

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas:

CitiesHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Stockton, CA$32.75$68,120
San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division$30.81$64,080
New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division$30.40$63,230
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$30.39$63,210
Washington-Arlington- Alexandria, DC-VA-MD- WV Metropolitan Division$30.34$63,110

While multiple elements influence the paralegal average salary, you can affect those factors. Choose a good paralegal program, gain experience in a specialization you like, hone your skills and you'll be able negotiate a winning salary package in no time.

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