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Earning Power: Navigating Salaries and Career Growth as a Paralegal

Published on: Apr 30, 2024

The importance of paralegals can never be understated. They are seen as the right hand of lawyers and legal teams, positing a smooth and efficient operation in law firms, corporations, government agencies, and other legal entities. 

In this guide, we will take a closer look at this role, exploring their duties, qualifications, and how much a paralegal makes in terms of salary. While numerous elements affect paralegal salaries, including location, education, and certifications, we will explain how each impacts an individual’s compensation and career growth.

A Primer on the Paralegal Profession

A paralegal performs certain legal duties in a law firm, corporation, or government agency. Their coursework, academic experiences, and on-the-job experience qualify paralegals to perform these duties. They are typically assigned work by an attorney, who then assumes responsibility. This work can include a variety of important tasks such as research, drafting documents filed with the court, assisting in case preparation for trial, and helping witnesses prepare for deposition.

Although some people use legal assistant and paralegal interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. The main difference is that a legal assistant’s duties will be more administrative, while a paralegal will do more hands-on legal work alongside an attorney, like researching laws and regulations or making contact with various people involved in litigation or transactions.

National Salary Averages for Paralegals

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals make approximately $59,200 annually. The top 10% of paralegals earned over $94,960, while the bottom 10% earned less than $37,690. 

However, it is important to note that paralegal salaries can differ depending on the industry they work for and the type of work they do. Some industries that pay more for paralegal work include:


Average Annual Salary

Finance and insurance:


Federal government:


Local government:


Legal services:


State government:


However, these figures will depend on numerous factors, including the paralegal’s experience, geographic location, and the specific sector the paralegal settles into.

The Impact of Geographic Location on How Much a Paralegal Earns

Paralegal salaries vary significantly across the United States, particularly in larger cities where wages tend to be higher. For example, in California, the average base salary for paralegals is approximately $65,525. However, this figure can range from $40,823 to $105,175 depending on the specific metropolitan area:


Average Annual Salary

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area


San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area


Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim area


In contrast, Idaho, with an average annual paralegal salary of $49,930, and Mississippi, with an annual average wage of $46,060, have the lowest average yearly salaries.

The Influence of Education and Certification on Earning Potential

A paralegal's education can also affect how much a paralegal earns. According to NALA, the Paralegal Association,  those with higher education degrees earn more than their counterparts.

For example, paralegals with an associate degree earned around $61,734 per year on average, while those with a bachelor's degree made about $64,825 per year. NALA also highlights that paralegals who have acquired certifications have better career opportunities, which may result in more chances for growth and promotions. In fact, obtaining certification and becoming a certified paralegal can lead to an average yearly salary increase of almost $5,000.

Paralegal Specialization and its Effect on Salaries

The income of paralegals can vary significantly depending on the areas of law they specialize in. Paralegals specializing in corporate law, intellectual property, or litigation may receive higher salaries than legal professionals in different fields. This is because specific knowledge tends to be more valuable and requires a higher proficiency level.

Litigation Paralegal

The litigation field relies heavily on paralegals during the discovery and pre-trial process and during the trial and appeals proceedings. These litigation paralegals are usually adept at reviewing legal documents, preparing exhibits for trial, drafting requests, and assisting attorneys with legal research. Litigation paralegals typically make between $67,000 and $106,000 per year.

Corporate Law Paralegals

Corporate paralegals are very important in a company’s legal system. They support the drafting of transactional documents, perform due diligence, prepare corporate filings, maintain company records, and ensure compliance. The average annual income of a corporate paralegal in the United States is estimated at $71,079 to $88,339.

Intellectual Property Law Paralegals

The sudden rise in technology and media has shot up the demand for legal experts in trademarks, copyrights, and intellectual property (IP). Consequently, numerous IP companies employ IP paralegals tasked with various responsibilities, which include preparing applications for patents and trademarks, conducting specific searches, helping during IP litigation and licensing, and monitoring IP portfolios.

On average, an intellectual property paralegal in the United States earns about  $102,643 per year.

Relationship Between Experience and Salary Growth

A paralegal’s earnings can also be influenced by their experience. Different salaries are associated with various paralegal positions, such as entry-level, mid-level, and senior positions. The differences between these positions are usually due to their job descriptions, level of work, and independence.

For example, the primary duty of an entry level paralegal is to assist attorneys and other legal professionals with administrative tasks. This position entails drafting papers, making appointments, and answering correspondence. Alternatively, mid level paralegals are involved in more substantive legal work, such as preparing legal drafts, conducting legal research, and assisting in preparing cases. On the other hand, senior paralegals are known for having more extensive knowledge and experience. Such jobs are typically complicated and tend to be less supervised than other employees.

Entry-level paralegals earn an average hourly wage of $19.32 in America, whereas senior paralegals receive $36 per hour on average. To maximize earning potential and advance within the field, one must have several years of experience working as a paralegal and taking formal training through continuing education programs or skill development courses. Obtaining a paralegal certificate is also a great way to become more competitive in the job market.

Paralegal Job Outlook and Opportunities for the Future

The BLS reports that paralegal demand will remain strong through 2024 and beyond. The BLS also calculates that the number of paralegals' job positions will increase annually by an average of 38,000 jobs during the next ten years. This implies that individuals interested in this field will have a wide range of career paths to choose from, including criminal law, real estate law, civil litigation law, family law, and bankruptcy. Furthermore, those who strive for growth within the paralegal profession can set their sights on supervisory or managerial positions such as senior paralegal and paralegal supervisor.

Tips for Negotiating Your Salary as a Paralegal

In recent years, there has been growing competition in the paralegal industry. Paralegals provide legal support services to lawyers and firms, which makes it essential for them to be fairly compensated for their work. That is why knowing how to negotiate salary to receive what they deserve is good.

  • Value Your Worth

    Understanding your actual value is one of the most important things when negotiating salaries as a paralegal. Law firms often rely heavily on the skills, experience, and contribution of paralegals to the team. As a result, paralegals need to recognize the value they bring to the table, whether they work for a public agency or a private firm.

  • Plan Before the Negotiations Start

    Before negotiating salary with potential employers, it is important to establish clear goals with specific objectives. Failure to do this may lead to unfavorable results. That is why it is recommended that paralegals take the time to jot down their needs and objectives on paper rather than solely relying on memory. Having this written copy of the objectives can be very helpful in ensuring that all relevant points are discussed and taken into account during the salary negotiation process.

  • Conduct Through Research to Know the Market Rates

    You must perform comprehensive research when negotiating your salary as a paralegal. Such research entails pooling together facts concerning the current market rates for paralegals in your area and other metropolis areas. By conducting this research, one can gain useful data that will assist them in bargaining for a satisfactory salary that is also fair and avoids underselling themselves.

Going After the Compensation You Deserve: The Final Key Points

Paralegals are vital to law firms and other entities, rendering valuable support to lawyers and practitioners in different facets of legal practice. Consequently, this occupation can be a lucrative career for people with appropriate qualifications, training, and positions. Yet, individuals need to know how to advance in this profession to achieve better earnings.

If you want to move ahead in your career, achieve more, or make more money as a paralegal, there are different opportunities you could explore. These might involve joining paralegal associations, taking a certification exam, or enrolling in paralegal programs.

About the Authors

Written by:

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Kasia Nelson is a licensed attorney and skilled legal content writer with years of experience. With a background in corporate immigration law, she is well-versed in the intricacies of producing legally accurate and well-researched work. 


  • Michigan State University, B.S.

  • Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Law Licensures

  • Michigan

Kasia Nelson

Kasia Nelson, Esq.


Education: Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Knowledge: Corporate Immigration Law

Reviewed by:

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Ryan P. Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business law. 

Law Licensures

  • New Jersey

  • Pennsylvania (inactive)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

Ryan Duffy

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Editorial Lead

Education: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Estate Planning