How to Become a Paralegal in Massachusetts
Paralegals perform a wide variety of duties in order to support attorneys. While their specific daily tasks will vary depending upon the specialty of the law firm, typical examples of daily chores include investigating facts of a case or compiling and organizing documents.
Paralegals are also skilled at conducting research on relevant laws and regulations, and summarizing or writing reports in preparation for trial. In Massachusetts there are no certification requirements to become a paralegal, but because this is a specialized career you should consider earning at least an associate’s degree in order to compete for the most desirable positions.
The majority of paralegals in Massachusetts hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in Massachusetts
To become a paralegal in Massachusetts there are certain step to take to ensure your success. Here’s a short list of what you’ll need to do:
Decide on a specialty.
Because there are many different types of law practices you’ll need to choose a niche, just as attorneys do.
Complete your education.
Although there is no specific degree required to become a paralegal the majority employed in this field have a bachelor’s degree.
Although it’s not required by state law many law firms require certification of their paralegal employees.
Do an internship.
This is often part of your degree work so you can earn experience and credits at the same time. An internship will boost your chances of employment once you graduate.
Apply for entry level positions.
After graduation you can begin working as a paralegal and learn the ins and outs of working in a law firm or corporation. Once you have experience you’ll qualify for more interesting and lucrative positions.
Paralegal Education Requirements in Massachusetts
Massachusetts doesn’t require any formal education to become a paralegal, so in theory you might get a job with only a high school diploma. However, the field is competitive and over 37 percent of paralegals in Massachusetts hold a bachelor’s degree compared to 24 percent with some college and no degree, and 18 percent who hold only an associate’s degree.
While there is no state law requiring a paralegal to be licensed or certified to work in Massachusetts many corporations and law firms require certification as part of their employment criteria. By passing the paralegal exam and education requirements of the National Association of Legal Assistants you will distinguish your skills and knowledge in the field.
Paralegals in Massachusetts earn slightly more than the national average. The mean annual salary for Massachusetts paralegals is $55,250 with the top 10 percent in the field earning over $82,730, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Keep in mind that those in the higher earnings tiers are typically those who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Years of experience working as a paralegal and location also may play a factor.
The BLS also says paralegals working in cities may make more money, if not due to the cost of living. For example, paralegals in Boston earned a mean annual wage of $56,270 and those employed in Worcester earned $51,640.
Career Opportunities for Paralegals in Massachusetts
Most paralegals in Massachusetts are employed in the Boston area; the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metro area ranks as one of the top 10 metro areas in the nation in paralegal employment. The majority work in law firms but some are also employed by corporations, insurance groups, and financial institutions throughout the state.
Final Steps: Continuing Education and Paralegal Associations in Massachusetts
Once you earn your degree and pass the certification exam, you’ll want to join associations that are centered around your profession and support employees. Here are three associations for paralegals in Massachusetts:
- Massachusetts Paralegal Association: One of the largest paralegal groups in New England, MPA members can network, access the job board, and attend regulars meetings as well as seminars.
- Central Massachusetts Paralegal Association: CMPA members can attend professional development seminars and conferences and network with others in their field. They also offer a membership for paralegal students so you can begin to make connections while earning your degree.
- Western Massachusetts Paralegal Association, Inc: Promotes the paralegal profession and the professional development of members. They offer professional education and member discounts and also offer a student membership.
Continuing your education is also an excellent idea once you are employed, as you can take classes specific to your employer’s specialty. It’s important to note that laws change constantly and earning continuing education credits proves to employers that you are staying abreast of any current changes in legislature.
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