In spite of times of economic uncertainty, professional experts assert that careers in the legal profession will continue to stand strong amidst a dwindling job market. Specifically, paralegals are projected to be among some of the most steadily paid individuals in the coming years. Colorado Community College says, “Although the job market is bleak, the high demand for paralegals makes it an attractive choice for a new and diverse career, regardless of age.” A recession-proof career as a paralegal is a strong, dependable, and financially rewarding option.
While law school costs may be unrealistic, community college paralegal programs present an expedited and affordable option for those interested in the legal field. Paralegal careers allow individuals to work in law without paying for the soaring educational costs of a four to eight-year college program. Paralegal studies can generally be completed in one to two years, allowing students to pay for more affordable educational programs and enter the job market more quickly.
The Rise in Demand for Paralegals
The career of a paralegal often involves completing many tasks and responsibilities that have traditionally been performed by lawyers. The paralegal career has seen a shift in responsibilities, as the cost to hire lawyers to perform these same tasks has skyrocketed. According to Colorado Community College, “Today paralegals are fulfilling an important role in an expanding and graying population that increasingly ?requires legal services.”
It is cheaper to hire a certified paralegal to perform the various duties of legal work instead of paying the soaring costs for a lawyer. Subsequently, many law offices and law firms have increased their hiring of paralegals to cut costs while continuing to perform their services optimally. As the demand for legal services increases, paralegals are earning higher salaries while assuming more significant responsibilities. Paralegals are continually becoming more valuable to legal employers and law firms who are attempting to cut costs. In addition, beyond employment with private law firms, government departments, ranging from the municipal to the federal level, consistently hire paralegals as well.
Strong Earning Potential and Career Growth
As nearly all job fields and employers are seeking to cut costs now more than ever, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has revealed that the employment rate of certified paralegals is steadily growing faster than the average for other occupations. The Bureau estimates that the job market for paralegals will expand by approximately 22% between 2006 and 2016.
Adding to this statistic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the average paralegal salary begins in the mid $50,000 range, providing new paralegals with a strong and steady salary.
As a paralegal continues in his or her profession, experts have discovered that the average paralegal’s salary will rise to the mid $60,000 range. In evaluating 2007’s paralegal statistics and data alone, economists discovered that the average salary for a paralegal in the United States rose by nearly 3.7 percent, resulting in an annual average salary of nearly $53,000. Since then, the top end has risen to $80,000 to $100,000.
Required Paralegal Training and Education
To achieve paralegal certification, most paralegals are required to complete specific degree requirements. Most paralegals today become certified through a community college associate degree program, which is generally comprised of legal study courses totaling 30 credits. As most college students take a minimum of 12 credits to be considered “full time students,” many can complete the program in less than one and a half years.
Notable Programs: Southwest Tennessee Community College
When engaging in a community college paralegal program, most community colleges provide students with an array of focus area options. For example, students attending Southwest Tennessee Community College are provided with four different concentration choices: real estate, corporate and banking, litigation, and general practice.
Southwest Tennessee’s paralegal program also provides hands-on training, requiring students to complete a co-op course and an internship experience. With these opportunities, in addition to supplemental legal courses, Southwest Tennessee paralegal graduates can enter the workforce with contextual knowledge, professional training, and hands-on interaction.
Most notably, Southwest Tennessee, like many community colleges, provides their paralegal graduates the option to continue with a cooperating university to complete a 4-year degree. Paralegal graduates earning their associate’s degree from Southwest Tennessee can continue to earn their bachelor’s degree in legal studies from the University of Memphis.
By starting their paralegal career at a community college, students have the freedom to choose between entering the job force and continuing to earn an additional degree. With either option, the job market is stable and growing for paralegals, making this professional an excellent recession-proof choice.
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