How to Become an Entry-Level Paralegal

Working in the justice system can be a fantastic experience, as you’ll get to work alongside experienced lawyers and learn the industry from top to bottom.

If you’re interested in law, the first step is to become a paralegal.

Young paralegal

There are different paralegal levels, with the first being an entry-level position.

Below, we’ll introduce you to everything you need to know about how to become an entry-level paralegal.

What Is an Entry-Level Paralegal?

A paralegal is a professional working in the justice system who works directly under the supervision of a licensed lawyer.

Paralegals are responsible for assisting with cases and doing research litigation-specific paperwork.

This job can be a stepping stone to becoming a lawyer or a higher-level paralegal, offering a promising career path for those with a passion for law.

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Entry-level paralegals will have the following duties:

  • Gathering information related to cases
  • Collect relevant laws that may relate to a case
  • Review literature and past trials
  • Gather and organize legal documents
  • Draft first drafts of legal documents
  • Obtain affidavits and formal statements
  • File necessary paperwork for legal appeals
  • Call witnesses and relevant personnel along with scheduling interviews
  • Task assistance during the court procedure, such as note-taking and reviewing transcripts

These are some of the tasks an entry-level paralegal can expect.

However, each office is run differently, and some tasks may or may not be necessary.

Entry-level paralegals will undergo training and learn basic tasks.

Steps to Become an Entry-Level Paralegal

To become an entry-level paralegal, applicants will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Be 18 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma
  • Some formal experience

While entry-level paralegals aren’t required to have higher education, it can be beneficial if they want to pursue becoming lawyers or attorneys.

Many entry-level paralegals have certificates and associate or bachelor’s degrees in a related field.

In addition, applicants should work on developing strong written and communication skills, as these are crucial for success in the legal field.

They should also focus on becoming familiar with legal jargon and technology.

After accumulating experience, applicants can apply for an entry-level paralegal position at form.

Here, they will gain experience in the field and become more familiar with how the legal system works.

After a few years, applicants can pursue higher education and sit for the bar exam.

Licensing Requirements to Become

There aren’t any licensing requirements to become an entry-level paralegal.

However, applicants should still pursue some formal education. Having a degree can help set them up for success in the role.

Degree holders will have a better time qualifying and securing a job.

That said, any sort of degree or certificate can be a good way to get a job.

This includes certificate programs and associate and bachelor’s degrees.

It’s recommended that applicants at least attend a bachelor’s degree program for paralegals if they want to advance in their careers.

Online Training Programs

Programs last from a few months to up to four years.

Students must apply to a program and successfully pass the final exam.

Most paralegal positions also require a high GPA to be considered.

This demonstrates that the student is well-prepared to work in law.

Those looking to become students may find taking an online training program useful.

These programs offer flexibility, allowing you to learn at your own pace and from the comfort of your home, empowering you to take control of your learning journey.

CLS Paralegal Certificate Course (Certificate)

Students will have 14 weeks to complete the online course.

The program consists of two parts: part one and part two.

Each part must be completed in seven weeks.

In addition, students must score 70% or higher to pass.

Associated costs include $1,900 for tuition not covered by financial aid.

Students will also need to afford textbooks and relevant course materials.

The total cost to attend will be around $2,400.

The course will include multiple options, such as self-study, live lectures, and text-only formats.

Students can choose from available formats in their provided state.

Students must complete the course within the timeframe, with no exceptions.

The University of Texas at San Antonio (Certificate)

Students can attend a three-14-week certificate program online at UTSA.

The program features three parts, each covering a section of paralegal expertise.

Each part includes 75 clock hours and covers a wide array of topics.

Attendance costs $1,750 per semester, not including course textbooks or materials.

Students who can not pay upfront can use a payment plan.

Otherwise, they must take out a loan, as financial aid isn’t available.

The program at the University of Texas at San Antonio is not ABA-approved.

However, students who complete the program can sit for the National Certified Legal Assistant Exam (NALA), a nationally recognized certification exam for paralegals.

This certificate can enhance their job prospects and demonstrate their commitment to the profession.

However, students who only complete the program will not be certified.

Rasmussen University (Certificate/Associates)

Rasmussen University offers two courses, including the online paralegal certificate program and the online associate’s degree.

Students can choose which one to pursue depending on their needs.

Entry-level paralegals will benefit from either, so it’s up to the student.

The certificate program takes eight months to complete and is entirely online.

It consists of nine courses and spans 33 credit hours.

Students must request tuition costs from the school, as they are not listed online.

However, Rasmussen does have financial aid available and also loan programs.

The associate’s degree will last 18 months and be conducted fully online.

Students will need to take 24 courses that span 90 credit hours.

Students must also contact the school about tuition prices.

Financial aid and grants are available to students who attend an associate’s program.

National University (BS)

NU students can take an online program to prepare to become paralegals.

The Bachelor of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies requires 180 quarter units, 76.5 of which are at the upper-division level.

All courses are four weeks and can be enrolled year-round.

The program is also ABA-approved.

Tuition can be paid for with a scholarship, grant, or financial aid.

However, there are no payment plan options.

Students must complete at least 45 units at NU, with other courses being able to be transferred from a different school.

That said, not all credits transfer, and students are recommended to complete the full program through NU.

To sit for the American Bar Association, students must keep in mind that a minimum of 27 quarter units are necessary to complete it.

Purdue Global

Purdue Global (BA)

At Purdue, students can pursue a bachelor of arts degree in legal support and services.

Students will need 180 credits, including 33 core credits, to complete the program, which averages four years.

Core credits are the foundation of the program and cover essential topics and skills that all students in the program are expected to master.

Students can apply for financial aid for tuition.

Each credit costs $371, which is affordable.

If students can’t afford it, grants and scholarships exist.

To apply, students must either have a high school diploma or complete a GED. Students who don’t have this will be denied.

Students can also choose to specialize in either civil litigation, criminal law, administrative law, or law office management.


The average salary of an entry-level paralegal is estimated at $29.31 per hour, which equates to $60,970 annually.

Of course, the amount of pay depends on experience, with the lower percentile making only $15.46 an hour and the high-end making $39.66 per hour.

This roughly equates to $32,160 annually or $82,500.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Arkansas2,160- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -
District of Columbia5,580$91,880$44.17$124,650$56,780
New Hampshire1,310$56,530$27.18$81,100$37,890
New Jersey9,580$65,570$31.52$96,480$38,650
New Mexico1,850$51,420$24.72$70,010$37,660
New York30,020$69,860$33.59$103,890$45,720
North Carolina12,290$56,120$26.98$81,310$35,920
North Dakota580$54,090$26.00$75,500$39,360
Rhode Island1,320- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -
South Carolina6,150$52,060$25.03$65,960$37,300
South Dakota500$55,290$26.58$68,120$44,300
West Virginia1,990$50,380$24.22$77,230$28,760
Puerto Rico710$45,220$21.74$65,670$30,560
Virgin Islands70$54,500$26.20$70,620$43,880

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $91,880.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • District of Columbia - $91,880
  • California - $76,080
  • Washington - $72,590
  • Massachusetts - $71,670
  • New York - $69,860
  • Colorado - $68,920
  • Delaware - $68,340
  • Connecticut - $67,310
  • Oregon - $66,250
  • New Jersey - $65,570
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Paralegals and Legal Assistants, OCC Code 23-2011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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