How to Become a Paralegal – In 5 Simple Steps

The law has so many facets and can have such an impact on everyone that it’s no wonder the field is an attractive one.

It’s a misconception that lawyers are rolling in the dough.

Some are but many aren’t.

The amount of time it takes to get a law degree to practice is a lot, whether you make a lot of money or not.

Some are passionate about the law but unsure if they can go through that much schooling, financially or otherwise.

A great way to work in the legal profession without crippling student debt is to work under a lawyer.

Here, we explain how to start a new career as a paralegal.

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Steps to Become a Paralegal

1. Start a Program

While legally there are no educational requirements to work as a paralegal, it might be nearly impossible to be gainfully employed without it.

The idea here is you need to show a knowledge of the law and be equipped to handle paralegal tasks.

Someone with no degree or certification saying such won’t demonstrate confidence to any law firm or legal employer.

If this sounds like a step you wouldn’t be interested in, being a paralegal might not be for you.

Otherwise, now is the time to look into programs.

To be the most competitive, you might want to get an associate’s degree in legal studies, as opposed to a certificate.

However, getting anything that proves your knowledge is a step in the right direction.

Try our paralegal practice exam to test your knowledge.

2. Gain Experience

Whichever program you choose, be on the lookout for opportunities to beef up your skills as a student.

One of the best ways to do this is through an internship.

These days, many internships are paid.

If not direct compensation, many internships at least reimburse gas money or other expenses.

Being a legal intern gives you a chance to see what it would like to do the job day in and day out.

It also gives you a chance to network with like-minded professionals.

Many interns get a foot in the door ahead of graduation by doing a phenomenal job as interns.

Working part-time at a law firm is another good way to gain experience, even if it isn’t actual legal work you do when on the clock.

3. Choose a Type

Students who are interested in working in the legal field don’t always start knowing what kind of law interests them the most.

Even if you have one in mind, it would be wise to reserve judgment until you’ve had a chance to get to know each type as school goes on.

At this point in the process, you’ve probably felt a pull in one direction or another.

If you had an internship or experience while studying, that might be a good place to start.

Or perhaps you want to learn more about a different type.

Here’s a list of law types you can expect to come across:

  • Administrative
  • Admiralty
  • Animal
  • Banking
  • Bankruptcy
  • Civil Rights
  • Constitution
  • Corporate
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Entertainment
  • Environment
  • Family
  • Health
  • Immigration
  • Intellectual Property
  • International
  • Labor
  • Litigation
  • Military
  • Municipal
  • Personal Injury
  • Real Estate
  • Tax

4. Put Together a Resume

One great way to make the most of tuition is to head over to the career center.

There, you can get one-on-one assistance to create an amazing resume.

Adding experience with education is the perfect combination for starting a new career.

5. Get to Applying


Once a student has made it to applying for jobs, you’ve made it!

All you need now is an offer letter!

Accepting a job as a paralegal

Licensing Requirements to Become a Paralegal

There are no license requirements to become a paralegal.

Technically, you don’t have to have a degree, but it is preferred.

See the best paralegal schools by state.

Online Training Programs

University of Texas at San Antonio

The paralegal program is part of the UTSA Professional and Continuing Education department.

Courses required to obtain the certificate are taught by local, active lawyers.

This means that you will not only learn how to be a paralegal, but you’ll see the need through the eyes of a lawyer.

Lawyers are the ones whom legal assistants spend most of their time in the office.

You’ll also get the perspective of what it will take to be successful in the role.

As well as what type of duties are expected.

From the first day through graduation, getting a certificate in paralegal studies takes just under a year.

Before finishing up, part of the curriculum will be to get ready for working in the legal field.

Mock interviews with industry leaders and resume writing are included in class participation.

The cost to walk away ready to work a year later is $5,300.

William Woods University

If you’re like many college students today, student debt will be part of your journey.

Start with a free application at William Woods University.

Once accepted, students can begin studies for their Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies.

In total, the program is 42 credits, but you will go through a 14-course sequence.

Essentially, a grouping of classes is taught every eight weeks.

The curriculum covers both substantive and procedural law.

What the system wants you to be comfortable with upon graduation are the types of situations you’d encounter as a legal professional.

WWU is $300 per credit hour of study or about $13,000 for the program.

Liberty University

The shortest program on the list wraps up in about two months and is only 18 credits.

Programs taught here are intensive and designed to get you confident and ready to go while the info is still fresh.

One aspect of paralegal studies at LU is the focus on writing.

Being able to inject any piece with legal professionalism and be based on arguments of law is an art.

Instructors also feel compelled to make sure your education can be spread across a handful of career settings.

Liberty University is a great place for someone who is a recipient of military benefits to get their paralegal certificate.

Here, you will get a $250 per credit hour discount.


The median salary for paralegals in the US is $60,000 annually.

That figure can vary greatly depending on location and experience level.

$76,000 is on the higher end.

That’s someone with years of working as a paralegal plus in a city with lots of work.

On the lower end, these legal professionals can expect $47,000.

If you’re new to the industry, that is a common starting salary.

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