Advice and Requirements for Becoming a Paralegal

There are a number of occupations which are highly sought after in today's economy. Among those occupations is that of paralegal, which was named as the most desirable (and underrated) of jobs in 2013 by CareerCast(R). 
There are only a few states which regulate the amount of education a paralegal must have. Potential employers are much more exacting than the states, and expect specialized training for anyone being considered for a paralegal position. Before you enroll in any paralegal certificate or degree program, make sure you have a good idea as to the education requirements prospective employers have in your area. Find out if they'll accept an eight month paralegal certificate from an online institute, if they require a two year Associates degree from an accredited school, or if they want you to obtain an American Bar Association approved four year Bachelors degree. You don't want to graduate with a certificate that no one will accept, nor do you want to spend four years (and a lot of money) on a Bachelors degree that over qualifies you for your local job market. Stated differently, you're letting the tail wag the dog if you graduate, and only then look around to find out who will accept your certificate or degree.
It's fairly simple to find out the hiring preferences of potential employers - just call them and ask! By doing so you'll also be introducing yourself to them, and begin establishing your professional network.

You can make follow-up phone calls or visits to find out if there are any areas of specialization (e.g. immigration, real estate, or medical paralegal) that are most in demand; doing so will re-acquaint them with you and establish you as someone to consider when you graduate. Once they've become more familiar with you, you can ask them about the possibility of working with them as an intern, or checking with them about the possibility of scholarship money for your educational effort. Each call brings you more clearly into focus in the employers' eyes, and increases the likelihood you'll find a good paying job with a well-respected firm when you graduate, rather than having to rely on 'help wanted' postings on the internet or in the classified section of your local newspaper.

Some may be able to find prospective employers to contact by consulting with their school's vocational counselor, with their teachers' networks within the industry, or with contacts provided by helpful alumni. Others may begin by contacting law firms, hospitals, major manufacturers, insurance companies, governmental agencies, etc. - anyone likely to have a legal department. Use your imagination to find contacts most appropriate for you; the efforts you make now will ensure a relatively smooth transition from studying to working when the time comes to find a job.
The average paralegal income is over $47,000 per year, and offers a new career path with a reasonable wage expectation for those displaced when the economy collapsed, as well as those seeking their first career position.

Dennis McNeely is the author of Whether you're considering becoming a paralegal or already in the profession, consider visiting the site for further career advice. You can also visit for networking help and hints.

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