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How much do paralegals make?
Paralegal median annual salary
Median Salary: $59,200
Projected job growth: 14.1%
10th Percentile: $37,690
25th Percentile: $46,850
75th Percentile: $75,560
90th Percentile: $94,960
Projected job growth: 14.1%
|State||Median Salary||Bottom 10%||Top 10%|
|District of Columbia||$87,610||$56,780||$124,650|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.
Paralegal salaries from state to state
Students pursuing a career in the legal field consider the paralegal profession to be one of the most rewarding—and potentially lucrative—options. One advantage is paralegals may be able to complete their state-required education and training in as little as one year, depending on their schedule and their state’s requirements. And, many paralegals find themselves earning a respectable living regardless of which state they practice in.
Paralegal students should understand that there are several factors that can cause paralegal salaries to vary across the country. In their 2022 data, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that six out of ten of the highest paying metropolitan areas for paralegals are all located within the state of California. This concentration of higher paid paralegals may be attributed to the size of California, the quantity of employers and the active local legal system.
In contrast, states like Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma have some of the lowest reported median annual salaries for paralegals. Not only are these states less populated, they may have less need for paralegal skills by virtue of the fact that they have fewer law firms or legal agencies requiring paralegal services.
Top 10 metro areas for paralegals by median annual salary
Paralegal salaries depend on a lot more than just experience and specialties. For example, rural and urban areas can look considerably different when it comes of pay, benefits and job outlook. According to the BLS, these are the top-paying metro areas for paralegals:
How do paralegal salaries compare?
Not only do salaries differ based on geographic location, level and type of education, whether you’ve earned professional certification and experience, but they’ll vary depending upon what legal support role you play in your office or firm. Here’s how paralegal salaries compare to other support service roles within the legal profession:
|Career||Median Annual Salary|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants||$59,200|
|Legal Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||$48,780|
|Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners||$63,560|
|Legal Support Workers, All Other||$62,340|
|Court, Municipal, and License Clerks||$44,140|
Paralegal career path
Paralegals are generally given more responsibility and authority as they gain work experience and earn certification. Paralegals with experience and a solid education may find their career path progresses steadily in terms of salary and responsibilities.
“The last two years [of school] I focused on the paralegal aspect and it helped in so many ways. I was able to start working right after I graduated, and getting to apply everything I had learned to the job was a seamless transition. You already have so much experience by the time you finish your degree that you’re a lot more confident during the job hunting process,” said Derek Henry, a paralegal working in Houston, Texas.
Experienced paralegals may also have a higher degree of job autonomy, particularly in the areas of real estate and estate planning, where a great deal of client work can be done with only minimal supervision by an attorney.
Experienced paralegals working in large law firms, corporate legal departments or government agencies may advance to supervising other paralegals and clerical staff. Some law firms and legal departments employ one or more paralegal managers, usually experienced paralegals, who oversee the assignments, workflow and personnel issues for all of the organization’s paralegals.
Where paralegals work
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 74% of all paralegals work for legal service agencies. Legal services such as law offices are typically well-appointed and some paralegals may enjoy a private office or above-average perks and benefits, including performance bonuses. Paralegals are also employed by corporate legal departments, finance and insurance companies, and state and federal government agencies.
As the law gets more complex, paralegals have become more specialized. Within specialties, functions and tasks often are broken down further so that paralegals may only work in one specific area of the law. For example, paralegals specializing in corporate law may concentrate exclusively on tax matters. Here are just some of the types of paralegal specialties:
- Civil litigation
- Personal injury
- Corporate law
- Criminal law
- Employee benefits
- Intellectual property
- Employment law
- Immigration law
- Family law
- Estate planning
- Real estate law
Certain states may have a more active job market with more opportunities for those wishing to become a paralegal. States with a larger population, such as California and New York both reflect a higher wage range, provide more resources for paralegals and have a better job outlook. However, paralegal salaries are not solely dictated by the size of your state. For example, a comparably smaller district like the District of Columbia employs a large number of paralegals who earn substantial salaries because of its being a hub of federal government and international hiring organizations.
Job growth for paralegals: 14.1% through 2031
Much faster than average according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook
Other states with a smaller overall population such as Ohio and Michigan have a comparably lower projected salary for paralegals. This may be due to a saturated job market, a smaller active legal system and less of an overall need for paralegals state-wide. Prospective paralegals may want to learn about the size of the legal sector where they want to work and how that affects job placement as well as potential future salary.