Many candidates who aspire to become paralegals often wonder why it’s so important that a paralegal program is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). There are several reasons why a program should be approved by the ABA. In some cases, an individual may become a paralegal by working in a law firm for several years and receive on-the-job training. However, if a student is choosing to go through the work and commitment of earning a degree, it only makes sense that he or she would choose an ABA approved paralegal degree because it’s looked on as a plus on a job resume. Students pursuing an ABA approved paralegal degree have many options from which to choose.
Why Paralegal Program Should be ABA Approved
When choosing a paralegal program, it’s important that students choose a program that’s approved by the American Bar Association. Besides it being a resume-builder, it’s something that many employers look for when hiring paralegals. There are currently more than 260 ABA-approved paralegal programs in the United States. Here are some reasons why candidates should choose ABA-approved paralegal program.
- More well-rounded education with courses, internships, and renowned instructors
- Curriculum often designed by attorneys and paralegal associations.
- Schools are more reputable and long-standing.
- Attorneys prefer to hire paralegals who have completed ABA-approved programs.
- May be required for certification
Type of Paralegal Programs Available
According to Paralegal 411, there are more than 910 colleges or universities offering legal assistant or paralegal programs in the United States. Paralegal or legal assistant programs that are ABA-approved are offered at more than 265 schools. Candidates can choose from paralegal or legal assistant programs at several degree levels, according to the National Center of Education Statistics.
- Certificate programs – offered at 341 schools
- Associate degrees – offered at 781 schools
- Bachelor’s degrees – offered at 177 schools
- Advanced degrees – offered at 38 schools
How to Become a Paralegal
Although some paralegals have received their training while on the job, the majority of candidates complete an ABA-approved paralegal training programs and/or earn degrees in paralegal studies. One option is a two-year associate’s degree in paralegal studies while another option is a four-year bachelor’s degree program. An individual who already has a bachelor’s degree in another field may complete a one-year paralegal certificate program. Upon completion of the program, the paralegal should obtain local and national certification.
Career Outlook for Paralegals
In an effort to cut costs and see more clients, attornies are choosing to hire and utilize paralegals to do a lot of the work formerly done by attorneys. This trend will continue to put a demand for qualified paralegals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that paralegals should see an employment growth of 15% during the decade of 2016-2026, which should result in 41,800 new paralegal and legal assistant jobs created by 2026.
Paralegals working in 2017 earned wages ranging from $31,130 to $81,180 with the average annual wage at $53,910. The average hourly wage was at $25.92 according to the BLS. Wages vary by different factors, such as work experience, degree level, employer and location. Here are the five top-paying states for paralegals.
- District of Columbia – $78,350
- Alaska – $62,860
- New Jersey – $61,650
- Washington – $60,280
- Connecticut – $60,150
Working as a paralegal can be the start of a brilliant, rewarding and lucrative career. For some paralegals, it may eventually lead to pursuing further education at a law school and becoming a lawyer. Completing a paralegal program that’s approved by the American Bar Association can provide candidates with an education preferred by attorneys and one that prepares them for further study and career advancements.