Clarifying Your Paralegal Career Path: What to Know

Are you interested in pursuing a career as a paralegal, but don’t know where to begin? You’re not alone. Paralegals are not licensed at the national level and regulations vary from state to state. And, as lawyers are responsible for the work produced by paralegals, they often establish their own hiring standards—requiring a certificate, associate degree, or even a bachelor’s degree for open positions.

But no matter the requirement, UC has a program to provide you with the right education and training to make you an asset to any firm.

What Is a Paralegal?

Paralegals work in a supportive capacity for attorneys, assisting with tasks to better serve clients. They are commonly employed by law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies.

What Do Paralegals Do?

The specific responsibilities of a paralegal may vary depending on their place of employment, but most of these professionals undertake a range of administrative tasks behind-the-scenes. Their duties commonly involve:

  • conducting legal research
  • filing legal documents
  • communicating with witnesses
  • assisting with trial preparation
  • preparing reports

Do You Need a Degree to Become a Paralegal?

Having earned an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, or completing paralegal certification—especially through an American Bar Association-approved program—increases your chances of being selected for a position and advancing your career in the legal field, although some employers do hire candidates with no legal experience or education.

What Are the Common Paralegal Career Paths?

To get started on the paralegal career path best suited for your situation, you first need to answer a question: Do you already have a college degree?

If your answer is no, and you have graduated high school or earned your GED, you are eligible to pursue a focused education in paralegal studies. On the other hand, if your answer is yes, you may have a quicker path to becoming a paralegal. Some firms may be willing to hire you with no additional training, while others may prefer candidates who have completed a specific paralegal training or education program.

Luckily, the University of Cincinnati (UC) provides various online degree programs for individuals to become paralegals, regardless of their background—all taught by licensed attorneys and practitioners who, on average, have 15 years of experience.

  • The Associate of Applied Business in Law and Paralegal Studies is the most common educational path leading to a paralegal career for online students, providing a fully comprehensive curriculum. You’ll graduate with a solid understanding of the US legal system, and be prepared for a variety of job opportunities in a growing field.
  • The Bachelor of Science in Law and Paralegal Studies is an online program providing hands-on experiences to help launch your legal career. Busy students will enjoy part- and full-time scheduling, offering the flexibility to balance work and family obligations while completing their degree.

How to Advance Your Career as a Paralegal

As a paralegal, you may already have a solid foundation in areas such as litigation, real estate, family law, and corporate law. But did you know that you can set yourself apart from the rest by developing expertise in a specific practice area? By taking additional classes and gaining specialized knowledge in a niche area—including personal injury law, intellectual property law, or healthcare law—you can make yourself invaluable to your organization.

Paralegal Trends and Job Outlook

The paralegal profession has grown and evolved in recent decades, becoming a vital component of the legal industry. With the guidance of attorneys, paralegals are now taking on more substantive legal tasks in law firms and corporate legal departments, leading to increased efficiency and productivity. This has resulted in a high demand for skilled paralegals across various legal practice areas, with about 38,000 openings for paralegals projected each year, on average, over the next decade.

Discover How UC Can Help Start or Advance Your Paralegal Career

At UC, we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all path to becoming a paralegal. That’s why we offer flexible and supportive options for you to choose the credential that best suits your individual goals. Whether it’s an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, or a certificate, we’ve got you covered from application to graduation.

As a paralegal, you’ll be doing important work that helps the law and court systems make positive impacts on communities. If you’re ready to take the plunge into this exciting field, an online program at UC is the perfect place to start.

Explore our online paralegal programs or take the first step in advancing your paralegal career by connecting with an advisor today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do paralegals make a good salary?

The rising demand for paralegal services results in a strong starting salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $60,970 in May 2023.

What is the difference between a paralegal and a legal secretary?

Paralegals have more legal education and training and may perform tasks such as legal research, drafting legal documents, and assisting with client communication. Legal secretaries or assistants, on the other hand, typically focus on administrative and clerical tasks such as managing documentation and scheduling appointments and court dates.

What are the options for paralegal career advancement?

There are two main options for advancing your career as a paralegal.

You can specialize in a particular area of law. By doing so, you can become an expert in that field, attracting higher-paying clients and earning a reputation as an authority. On the other hand, you can move into a managerial role. This will allow you to take on more responsibility and lead a team of paralegals, improving your leadership skills and increasing your earning potential.

What type of paralegal is most in demand?

Specialized paralegals are the need of the hour in industries requiring legal expertise. If you’re looking to establish your career as a paralegal, specializing in contract law, corporate law, healthcare law, intellectual property (IP) law, or real estate law can be highly rewarding. These legal specializations are in high demand in the current job market, and acquiring the relevant skills and knowledge can give you an edge over others.

What do most paralegals major in?

Acquiring a degree in paralegal studies, law and government, criminal justice, or law enforcement can significantly boost your chances of certification as a paralegal. It is recommended that you consider these programs as they can provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills required for a successful career in the field of law.

birds eye view of students working at a round table with laptops and study materials
Need additional student resources?
Already an online student? UC Online has additional tips and tricks to ensure you are on the path to success. Check out our Student Resources section for what you need to maximize your learning.
Corporate Taxation professionals having a meeting
Helping You Build a Better Business Through Continuing Education
Employee recruitment and retention is crucial for the growth and profitability of an organization and should be a high priority for every business. At the University of Cincinnati Online, we want to help develop and retain your employees through our Business Partnership offering.

Sign up for updates from UC Online

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.