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Think a Paralegal Degree is a Waste of Time? Think Again

Paralegal careersA January 2013 study by the Associated Press (AP) concluded that paralegal careers are among those that experts predict will “disappear” as technology advances and job markets continue to tighten.

In fact, the AP pointed to paralegals, meter readers and travel agents as “vulnerable” occupations because: “Year after year, software that runs computers and an array of other machines and devices become more sophisticated and powerful and capable of doing more efficiently tasks that humans have always done."

The AP actually described the day-to-day tasks paralegals perform as “routine and repetitive.”

If you are considering earning a paralegal degree or certificate, the AP study probably comes as quite a shock. Well, don’t worry. We’re not buying what their experts are selling and neither should you. Here’s why ...

1. The paralegal field is not shrinking, it’s growing

A year-over-year analysis of paralegal jobs in America* reveals that the 280,940 paralegals employed in 2007 grew to almost 297,000 in 2011. That’s a six percent increase in just five years … all for a field that is said to be “disappearing.” The data isn’t complete for 2012 but it’s hard to ignore a trend that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says should result in more than 302,000 paralegals by 2020.

If you’re still searching for programs or you’re already studying hard to earn your degree or certificate, you might be thinking: “Great, those people have jobs. It looks like they’ll continue to have jobs in the future. But, what about me?”

Well, you’re in luck. An analysis of 63,733 online job postings** for paralegal and legal assistant positions over the past 12 months shows that the number of available jobs in the field is increasing. Last year, between Apr. 30, 2011 and Apr. 29, 2012, there were 56,523 paralegal jobs available across the United States. That number has increased by more than 7,000 jobs over the last 365 days.

2. Paralegal jobs are available across the nation

Not only is the number of paralegal job openings trending upward, vacancies are showing up in almost every major metropolitan area in the country. Our analysis shows that every state in America – including Puerto Rico and Guam! – has had job openings for paralegals over the past year. Regarding specific job markets, here are the hottest of the hot-spots:

Midwest region:

  • Illinois: (3,150 jobs)
  • Ohio: (1,435 jobs)
  • Minnesota: (1,328 jobs)
  • Michigan: (1,028 jobs)

South region:

  • Texas: (4,585 jobs)
  • Florida: (4,334 jobs)
  • Georgia: (2,806 jobs)
  • Washington D.C.: (2,014 jobs)

Northeast region:

  • New York: (6,322 jobs)
  • Massachusetts: (2,884 jobs)
  • New Jersey: (2,179 jobs)
  • Pennsylvania: (2,087 jobs)

West region:

  • California: (8,749 jobs)
  • Colorado: (1,716 jobs)
  • Washington: (1,699 jobs)
  • Arizona: (1,224 jobs)

Even if you’re only at the decision-making stage in your paralegal education, the way the profession is trending – in addition to these current numbers – makes this particular field a promising bet.

3. You don’t need as much experience as you might think

Think you need years of experience and a plethora of professional references to land a promising paralegal career? Think again. Our analysis shows that a significant portion of the job openings from the past year are available for those just starting their careers.

We found that almost 58 percent of all jobs listed in the last 365 days require 1-4 years of experience. Combine that with the additional five percent of job vacancies that require less than a year of experience and it comes out to 63 percent.

I’ll say it again: Sixty-three percent of paralegal job openings from the past year required between 0-4 years of experience – and even more jobs will be added in the years to come. Add a paralegal internship to your resume and you’re golden!

4. A final word

So, whether you’re following a new path in life or just starting to embark on one, earning a paralegal degree or certificate is a good way to find a satisfying – and potentially lucrative – career. Side note: Our analysis revealed real-time mean salaries for paralegals, legal assistants and legal support workers ranging between $49-51,000!

If you are serious about becoming a paralegal, the primary piece of advice we received from those in the field was to specialize in a robust area of law. Our data supports this idea as well.

The types of paralegals in greatest demand appear to be those who have specialized in the following areas: litigation, corporate, real estate, intellectual property, immigration and trust and estates.

So, that’s it. We’ve told you how much the field is growing; where the jobs are; what kind of experience you’ll need to get started; and we even plugged the mean salary for paralegals. What more do you need?

Check out an Associate’s degree or certificate program. If you like what you see, enroll. You could be ready for a paralegal career in as little as 15 months.

*Source: Burning Glass (A year-over-year analysis of employment trends for paralegals, legal assistants and legal support workers, 2007-2011)
**Source: Burning Glass (An analysis of 63,733 online job postings between Apr. 30, 2012 and Apr. 29, 2013)

Jeff Roberts

Jeff is the Content Marketing Editor at Collegis Education. He oversees all of the blog and newsletter content for Rasmussen College. As a writer, he creates articles that educate, encourage and motivate current and future students.

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