Career Attributes

  • $40,662
  • 285,600
  • 2.7
  • 14.6%
  • Certificate or Associate's degree
  • Pre-Law
More Attributes


There are several paths to becoming a paralegal. One can enrol in a community college paralegal program to earn an associate’s degree. A limited number of schools also offer bachelor’s and master's degrees in paralegal studies. For those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject, they can also earn a certificate in paralegal studies. Some employers may also hire entry-level paralegals without any experience or education in paralegal studies and train them on the job, although these jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree.

Associate’s and bachelor's degree programs in paralegal studies usually combine courses in legal research and the legal applications of computers with other academic subjects. Most certificate programs provide this paralegal training for people who already hold college degrees. Some certificate programs only take a few months to complete.

Many paralegal training programs also offer an internship, in which students gain practical experience by working for several months in a private law firm, a corporate legal department, the office of a public defender or attorney general, a government agency or a legal aid organization. Internship experience helps the students improve technical skills and can enhance their employment prospects.

Sometimes employers hire college graduates with no legal experience or education and train them on the job. In these cases, the new employee often has experience in a technical field that is useful to law firms, such as criminal justice or tax preparation. That being said, employers prefer candidates who have at least one year of experience in a law firm or other office setting and have technical understanding of a specific legal specialty. For example, a personal-injury law firm may desire a paralegal with a background in health administration or nursing. It is particularly important for people who do not have formal paralegal training to have work experience in a law firm or other office setting.

Many local and national paralegal organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications to students able to pass an exam. Yet other organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications for those who meet certain experience and education criteria.

Paralegals usually require less supervision and are given more responsibilities as they gain work experience, and experienced paralegals may delegate assignments to clerical staff and other paralegals.

What are Paralegals like?


Based on our pool of users, Paralegals tend to be predominately investigative people. Take our career test to see what career interest category best describes you.

Paralegals by Strongest Interest Archetype

Based on sample of 2193 CareerExplorer users

Are Paralegals happy?


Paralegals rank among the least happy careers. Overall they rank in the 13th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores.

Paralegal Career Satisfaction by Dimension

Percentile among all careers

Education History of Paralegals

The most common degree held by Paralegals is Political Science. 16% of Paralegals had a degree in Political Science before becoming Paralegals. That is over 5 times the average across all careers. English Literature graduates are the second most common among Paralegals, representing 13% of Paralegals in the CareerExplorer user base, which is 2.6 times the average.

Paralegal Education History

This table shows which degrees people earn before becoming a Paralegal, compared to how often those degrees are obtained by people who earn at least one post secondary degree.

Degree % of Paralegals % of population Multiple
Political Science 15.6% 2.9% 5.3×
English Literature 12.8% 4.9% 2.6×
Psychology 11.0% 7.0% 1.6×
Pre-Law 10.1% 0.4% 25.4×
History 7.4% 2.3% 3.3×
Business Management And Administration 7.2% 6.5% 1.1×
Criminal Justice 6.1% 1.4% 4.4×
Sociology 5.3% 2.1% 2.5×
Philosophy And Religious Studies 4.4% 1.6% 2.8×
Communications 4.0% 3.4% 1.2×
International Relations 3.7% 1.5% 2.5×
Economics 3.5% 4.0% 0.9×
Liberal Arts 3.0% 1.9% 1.6×
Foreign Language Studies 2.6% 1.3% 2.0×
Journalism 2.1% 1.1% 1.8×
Linguistics 2.0% 0.8% 2.4×
Intercultural And International Studies 2.0% 0.6% 3.1×
Business 1.8% 2.6% 0.7×
Public Policy 1.8% 0.4% 4.7×
Biology 1.7% 3.6% 0.5×
Anthropology And Archeology 1.7% 1.3% 1.3×
Human Resources 1.6% 1.0% 1.6×
Teacher Education 1.6% 0.9% 1.8×
Music 1.2% 0.9% 1.4×
Accounting 1.2% 1.9% 0.7×
Finance 1.2% 2.1% 0.6×
Criminology 1.1% 0.4% 2.6×
Computer Science 1.0% 3.0% 0.4×

Paralegal Education Levels

49% of Paralegals have an associate's degree. 45% of Paralegals have a bachelor's degree.

No education 0%
High school diploma 5%
Associate's degree 49%
Bachelor's degree 45%
Master's degree 0%
Doctorate degree 2%

How to Become a Paralegal

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Further Reading

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Recommended Books

  • Paralegal Careers

    Designed for a short course on paralegal careers, this easy-to-use text introduces paralegal students to the paralegal profession. Written with the insight from a former paralegal, "An Introduction to Paralegal Careers" focuses on what paralegal students are interested in learning about their chosen profession - from what they'll be doing to where to find the right paralegal position.

  • Paralegal Career Guide

    This Third Edition will guide readers to transform their career. Readers will be rewarded with wonderful relationships with bosses, coworkers, and peers.

  • Paralegal Career For Dummies

    Apply important legal concepts and skills you need to succeed. Want a new career as a paralegal but don't know where to start? Paralegal Career For Dummies is the practical, hands-on guide to all the basics - from getting certified to landing a job and getting ahead.

  • Paralegal Practice & Procedure Fourth Edition: A Practical Guide for the Legal Assistant

    Now fully revised and expanded: the bestselling desk reference for paralegals at any level. Each chapter has been completely updated to include the latest step-by-step instructions for every aspect of a paralegal's job, with new procedures, checklists, and resources throughout.

  • The Legal Assistant's Letter Book

    This unique guide provides paralegals with a foundation for writing effective correspondence in the law or corporate office. It offers training using all of the practical tools for writing clear, accurate and concise documents. Although discussions focus mainly on legal communications, most of the guidelines offered can be applied to corporate or other professional settings.

  • Paralegal's Litigation Handbook

    The Paralegal's Litigation Handbook, Second Edition, by Carole Bruno shows practicing paralegals and paralegal students (and law clerks) how to perform litigation procedures more efficiently and effectively. This seminal handbook contains countless quick and practical techniques to simplify the paralegal's job - all explained with clear "how to" directions and illustrated with numerous checklists, charts, sample pleadings and forms.

Career Attributes

  • $40,662
  • 285,600
  • 2.7
  • 14.6%
  • Certificate or Associate's degree
  • Pre-Law
More Attributes