Wages and Benefits

As with all careers, paralegal wages and benefits vary across the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest paid paralegals earn approximately $73,000 per year, while the lowest ten percent average $29,000 annually. There are multiple factors that affect paralegal income, such as education, experience, location, field, and employer. Additionally, some paralegals may receive benefits or bonuses while others do not. Similarly, give and take of the legal business includes such things as work-and-life balance with these factoring into wages and benefits.

In general, paralegals who are certified make more than paralegals with no certification. Certified paralegals are seen as more valuable and more of an asset to the company. Likewise, paralegals with a four-year degree may make considerably more than those with no degree. Paralegals with more education may often be seen as needing less training and will make up for this in pay scale.

Experience is also a leading factor in paralegal wage differences. Regardless of the amount of education, a paralegal with little to no experience may start out making as little as minimum wage or less than $30,000 per year. Paralegals with experience of fifteen to twenty years can be found making as much as $30 per hour.

One factor that is out of a paralegal’s control is geographic location. Cost of living is a large part of wages for all industries, and the legal field is no different. Paralegals who work in a large city will, on average, earn much higher salaries than those working in a smaller town.

The field a paralegal chooses to work in has a significant impact on the salary earned. Paralegals who work for the federal government earn the highest of all fields, and those working in small law offices or local government earn the lowest. A government paralegal earns an annual salary averaging $56,000. Paralegals employed in management earn the next highest with an average of $50,000 per year, and those working in the insurance industry come in third at approximately $45,000 annually. Approximately 70% of paralegals work for law firms.

Some paralegals will earn an hourly wage while others are salaried; this depends solely on the employer. Also at the employer’s discretion is the actual amount that is paid. A paralegal working at a smaller firm with more responsibilities could earn more than a paralegal at a larger, more affluent firm.

Generally, full-time paralegals are afforded benefits through the company. With the rising cost of healthcare and individual benefits, this is a perk that can draw in potential employees. Additionally, depending on the industry a paralegal works in, he or she may receive bonuses. Paralegals working for law firms often see bonuses, while those working for the government or an insurance industry may not. Conversely, those working for the government or insurance companies may have more time off than those working in a law firm.

One important aspect a paralegal should consider while weighing wages and benefits is the give and take of the work-and-life balance. Some higher paid paralegals may work more than a 40-hour week and have a higher stress load than those who are paid at a lower rate. In the paralegal world, a higher wage is often associated with more responsibility and longer hours at the office.

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