ABA Approved Paralegal Programs & Paralegal Salaries Update
When looking for ABA approved paralegal qualifications, as we have said so often on this site, there are few paralegal programs that actually provide ABA approval. For instance, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that few of the one thousand paralegal programs receive ABA approval – probably around 200. For the paralegal looking at family law work, the requirement for ABA approval is as important as for any other area of paralegal work, although of course having ABA approval is by no means essential to becoming a competent paralegal, but it will help with job opportunities later.
One of the main obstacles to paralegal courses receiving ABA approval is their reliance upon distance learning and correspondence in their entirety. Obviously that excludes most online programs and certainly all of the ‘short-form’ paralegal online programs that seduce students to them with low fees and fast turnaround.
The BLS also notes something else of particular use to those considering paralegal schools and that is the need to acquire certification (if that is what is being sought under the program), which involves those certification programs provided by the National Association of Legal Assistants, National Federation of Paralegal Associations or the American Alliance of Paralegals.
The paralegal certification requirements for the organizations will differ, but they do require a combination of both examinations and practical work experience, which employers value.
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What’s the outlook for paralegal jobs? The BLS see continued growth in the paralegal work area, which could get close to 30 per cent for the 2008-2018 decade. The driver for this growth comes from increased legal work combined with a need by law firms and legal departments to increase their efficiences and reduce their cost structures. In addition to those factors, the BLS can also see an increased requirement for legal services to be provided to minorities, the poor and other legal-aid grolups and community law options for paralegals to participate in.
As for paralegal salaries, the BLS reports that the average paralegal salary was just under $50,000 as at May 2010, with a salary range of $30,000 for the bottom 10 per cent to almost $75,000 for the top ten percent. The median was $46,680.
What are the main influencers for paralegal salary discrepancies? Obviously experience is the main factor, but so too is educational qualifications with paralegals having a bachelor degree and 5 to 8 years’ experience expecting a median salary of $62,000. But the other factors are those relating to location, the employer, the work-type and so on.
It is clear that the future for paralegals is bright, with increased opportunities and educational options. However some of the key factors that will influence paralegal success remain education, experience and employer.
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