The 7 Paralegal Salary & Employment Statistics You Need To Know

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that the average paralegal or legal assistant salary in May 2015 was $52,390 (or approximately $25.19 an hour). However, this data only gives a fraction of the picture.

Paralegal salaries can vary depending on what state you work in, the size of the firm you work for, your level of educational attainment, years of experience and area of specialization. The National Association for Legal Assistants has recently published the results of its 2016 survey of the paralegal industry. In this article we break down the statistics to give you the complete picture.

Location, Location, Location

Setting up in the Far West might be the way to go if you are after a sweet salary. The Far West has consistently out-performed other regions in terms of salary since 2010, whilst the Plains States trail at the bottom of the list.

Region New England/Mid East Great Lakes Plains States South-east Rocky Mountains Far West
Salary $55,583 $54,957 $54,173 $59,589 $56,257 $68,196

Compare these with statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which give us with a closer look at the highest paying states. If you are a paralegal and you are living in the District of Columbia ($77,230p/a), Alaska ($66,470p/a) or California ($59,230p/a), consider yourself lucky.

Years Of Experience

Don’t expect to be making the big bucks if you have just started out in the paralegal industry. Rest assured though that the news gets much better after 5 years in the field (from the NALA 2016 Survey).

Years of experience 1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25 25 +
Salary $40,962 $50,949 $57,034 $60,107 $62,960 $67,154

Educational Attainment

Although it seems that there is not much difference between the salaries of paralegals whose highest level of education is High School or an Associate’s Degree, these statistics show that a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree can have a huge impact on you income (from the NALA 2016 Survey).

Education High School/GED Associate’s Degree Bachelor’s Degree Master’s Degree
Salary $58,079 $56,607 $57,578 $60,778

 

Firm Size

Sole practitioners tend to pay their paralegals significantly less than average, but it appears that whether you work in a mid-sized or large firm might not make a massive difference to your salary. A sample of firm sizes (by number of attorneys) and salary is set out below (from the NALA 2016 Survey).

Attorney size Sole 6-10 16-20 26-30 36-40 46+
Salary $48,609 $55,097 $58,010 $58,969 $58,932 $61,612

Industry

Some of the most popular industries for paralegals happen to be in government, but the pay scale can vary dramatically depending on the level. Here we list the median salaries for paralegals in the top industries that they work in (from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015).

Industry Federal Govt Finance & Insurance Local govt Legal services State govt
Salary $63,720 $58,940 $48,300 $46,790 $45,810

 

Compare this with the highest paying industries, which are: software publishers ($76,010p/a), publishing industries ($74,130p/a), semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing ($72,920p/a), and pharmaceutical and medial manufacturing ($72,340p/a). Unfortunately it seems that the industries that hire the most paralegals do not also pay them the most.

 

The Outliers

Of course, we are dealing purely with averages here.

To give you an idea of what the best in the paralegal field are being paid: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2015 the top 10% of paralegals made $79,010 a year (that’s more than $37.99 per hour).

Employment Rates

Employment prospects for paralegals in the next five years are good to average. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that job growth for paralegal and legal assistant positions will increase 8% between 2014 and 2024.

But what about 2017?

The Robert Half 2017 Salary Guide predicted that in 2017 demand for paralegals would grow 3.5% (or 4% if you are a senior paralegal).

On the other hand, if you are looking for the area that is employing the most paralegals, the states with the highest employment level in the field are California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.

Although it is impossible to predict what salary you will receive if you decide to enter the paralegal industry, some facts are clear: educational attainment, years of experience and industry can have a significant impact on your income.

Please include attribution to JPL Process Service with this graphic.

Paralegal Salary & Employment Statistics

Share this Image On Your Site