Being a paralegal is known to be an incredibly rewarding career. Not only are you helping people, but you are also performing intellectually challenging and engaging work. Paralegals can also make a decent salary. How much a paralegal can make depends on a number of factors. Find out how much paralegals make in 2020 and the steps that you can take to increase your earnings.

How Much Do Paralegals Make in 2020?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals make an average of $50,940 a year. The position's pay can vary dramatically. The lowest 10% of paralegals earn less than $31,400, and the highest 10% earn more than $82,050. They may also earn a bonus every year, depending on their employer.

Most paralegals work full-time at 40 hours a week. However, deadlines are an important part of most of the work paralegals perform. This means that paralegals must often work overtime to adequately prepare and meet deadlines. Keeping this in mind, it is essential for paralegals to be passionate about their work and maintain a sharp mind even after long hours.

While paralegals have better salaries than your average service worker, they make a little less than the average professional worker, who gets paid around $60,000 a year.

What Factors Determine a Paralegal’s Salary?

The salary range for paralegals is quite wide. How much they make depends on a few different factors, and can mean the difference between earning $30,000 a year or $80,000 a year. Here are some of the elements that can determine the salary for the position.

Education and Training

Education level and amount of training will have a significant influence on a paralegal’s starting salary. Typically, someone with a bachelor’s degree will be paid more on average than someone with a high school diploma or associate’s degree. Additionally, a prospect with paralegal certification will likely get a higher salary offer than someone with no paralegal training at all. However, experience level has the most substantial influence on a paralegal’s salary.

Experience Level

One of the factors that has the most influence over salary is the paralegal’s experience level. Like many positions, more experienced paralegals that have managerial responsibilities tend to make significantly more money than someone at entry-level with only a few years of experience. Experience also tends to influence the salary increases that you will get. The more experience you have, the higher your potential for salary increases.

Employer

The majority of paralegals are employed by law firms. However, more and more paralegals are being employed by private corporations as part of in-house legal teams. Law firms tend to reward hard work more readily, providing higher salary increases on average. The size of the firm also matters. Larger firms tend to pay higher salaries and have more substantial bumps, while smaller firms tend to pay less and have more modest increases. However, it’s important to note that private corporations typically pay their paralegals a higher salary overall, with less room for increases. Surprisingly, this generalization applies to paralegals at all experience levels.

Location

As is the case with many occupations, your local job market will have a substantial influence over your salary. A paralegal working for a law firm in Iowa will make significantly less than a paralegal working for a law firm based out of Chicago. Some locations also have a higher demand for legal services than others, resulting in higher salaries. Markets that have a higher demand for legal services include Washington D.C., Alaska, and New York. To maximize your salary, dig into the research about your local area and which markets have the highest demand for legal services.

Qualifications of Paralegals

The first qualification that any prospective paralegal should keep in mind is education. At one point in time, paralegals simply needed a high school diploma and an eye for detail. However, these requirements have been raised in recent years. Employers typically require an associate’s degree in paralegal studies at minimum, but many prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. This education track helps instill some of the essential characteristics needed to be a paralegal, including research skills, legal writing, and knowledge of basic law. While paralegal studies are preferred, some employers will hire college graduates without a legal background.

While education is one of the most important aspects of becoming a paralegal, some employers may also want to see certifications on your resume. You may be expected to pass a course and receive a paralegal certification.

It also takes certain personality traits and areas of interest to excel in this occupation. Attention to detail is essential. Missing even the smallest of details can have huge implications when dealing with the law. Being computer savvy and capable of performing in-depth research is also important. Finally, you must be able to communicate the results of your research clearly and effectively.

Employment Outlook

Unlike many occupations, the employment outlook for paralegals is much higher than average according to BLS. The position is expected to grow 12% by 2028.

The reason for this dramatic increase in job prospects? High demand for lower legal costs. Many law firms are trying to cut operating costs by client demand. In order to do this, they may hire more paralegals and provide them with additional responsibilities that are traditionally assigned to higher-ranking legal support team members.

Aside from the cost-cutting efforts of law firms, there are also more potential places for paralegals to be employed. Many companies are bringing on in-house legal teams rather than hiring out at professional firms. This creates more potential places of employment for paralegals.