written by: C.D. Crowder•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 3/7/2011
Paralegals are typically responsible for assisting in the day to day work in a law firm. Salaries for paralegals vary based on the industry they choose to work in. Learn more about what you can expect to earn and ways to increase the average salary for a paralegal.
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Average Salary Range
Most paralegals make on average $50,000 per year based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the full range of salaries for paralegals is between $29,800 and $75,700. The salary range varies greatly based upon several factors such as experience, industry and location.
Larger law firms are often able to pay higher salaries than smaller firms, and may even offer bonuses. The success of the firm that a paralegal works in is also a deciding factor in the salary offered. Over time, paralegals starting on the lower end of the scale will increase their salary to near or above the average annual salary.
Image Credit: Used with permission from Wikiparalegal.com
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Salary Based on Industry
Industries employing paralegals are typically divided into two categories: legal services and government. However, paralegals are often hired by private companies and insurance companies. Legal service providers, such as law firms, law offices, and litigators, employ the most paralegals and offer an average annual salary of $48,000. Depending on the exact legal service industry, salaries for paralegals can range anywhere from $35,000 to over $50,000.
Paralegals employed in the government sector earn at or above the typical average, especially those employed on a federal level. The federal government provides an annual salary of approximately $62,000. State and local government salaries are less, with an annual salary of approximately $44,000 to $50,000.
Many paralegals choose to work in the insurance business, gathering information for claims. Those working in this industry often earn an annual salary of up to $58,000, with some only earning $35,000.
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Salary Based on Location
As with the size and type of job, location makes a big difference in the average salary for a paralegal. The top five locations for earning a higher salary include New York, California, Illinois, the District of Columbia and Alaska. Metropolitan areas often provide higher salaries as well. The salary range for the top states and larger metro areas is between $52,000 and $68,000 per year.
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Education and Experience
Paralegals who continue to study, either in school or through mentoring programs at their job, can expect to earn higher annual salaries. Paralegals wanting to earn a salary higher than the average should have a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, though having a bachelor of arts in another related field has a higher earning potential as well.
It typically takes around five to ten years before a paralegal hits the average salary. After ten years, a paralegal has the chance to earn the annual average or higher. Most employers provide regular raises to paralegals the longer they stay with the company. In addition to raises, bonuses and even promotions are often available based on experience. With more employers looking to hire paralegals, the future of the paralegal career field looks very promising, which means that the annual salary may actually increase to attract educated and experienced employees.
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" Paralegal Salaries - Average Salary of a Paralegal - PayScale." PayScale - Salary Comparison, Salary Survey, Search Wages. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Paralegal/Salary (accessed March 7, 2011).
"Paralegals and Legal Assistants." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm (accessed March 7, 2011).