Paralegal Salary: What You'll Earn

A Career as a Paralegal in the Criminal Justice System Can Offer You Lucrative Earning Opportunities

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the paralegal job outlook to increase 15% over the next decade, a growth rate faster than average. Paralegal salaries depend on factors like work experience and education level, but data from Payscale shows paralegal salaries can range anywhere from $33,000-$70,000.

This guide includes more information about paralegal salaries, such as specific earning potential and how paralegal pay compares to other criminal justice careers.

How Much Do Paralegals Earn?

Paralegals can find employment with either associate or bachelor's degrees. While an associate degree in paralegal studies qualifies graduates for entry-level work, employers typically prefer candidates with bachelor's degrees. Often paralegals earn a bachelor's degree in another subject along with a paralegal certificate. This higher level of education may contribute to a higher starting salary as well.

Late-career paralegals earn $18,000 on average more annually than entry-level paralegals, according to Payscale data. Salary range also depends on location. Areas with higher costs of living — Washington, D.C., California, and Massachusetts — tend to offer paralegal jobs with higher salaries.

Finally, paralegal salaries also vary based on industry, as shown in the table below. Paralegals working for the federal government or in the finance and insurance industries generally earn higher salaries.

What's My Earning Potential as a Paralegal?

Professionals hoping to find jobs as paralegals can look forward to a positive job outlook. Law firms tend to assign more and more responsibilities to paralegals, like job tasks usually done by legal secretaries. This could account for the optimistic job outlook. In addition, paralegals can expect their earning potential to change throughout their careers. While an entry level job may pay under $40,000, paralegals with considerable experience can earn over $50,000.

Average Pay by Experience Level for Paralegals
Entry Level (0-12 Months) $38,000
Early Career (1-4 Years) $41,000
Midcareer (5-9 Years) $50,000
Experienced (10-19 Years) $53,000

Source: PayScale

How Do Paralegal Careers Compare to Other Criminal Justice Careers?

Without the graduate education and training that attorneys need to practice law, paralegals do not take on the same amount of responsibility as licensed lawyers. They do not perform the same tasks, nor do they work in management. Therefore, their salaries are not as lucrative.

While lawyers can expect to see a job outlook of 8% growth from 2016 to 2026, the BLS projects that the paralegal job growth rate may nearly double that figure. The increased rate for paralegals also outpaces other criminal justice careers, such as corrections officers, bailiffs, sociologists, police officers, and detectives.

The table below outlines more information about how salary and job outlook between paralegal career factors stack up against other criminal justice work. Keep in mind that the pay figures represent the median annual salary, which can change depending on previous work experience and other degrees earned.

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Paralegals $50,940 15%
Corrections Officers and Bailiffs $44,400 -7%
Lawyers $120,910 8%
Sociologists $82,050 1%
Police and Detectives $63,380 7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Take the Next Step Today

For more information on paralegals, visit the resources below. These pages give advice to interested individuals who want to begin their journey to become paralegals. Specifically, the guides outline job outlook information and educational and licensure requirements for prospective paralegals.