How to Become a Paralegal in New Mexico
If you are intrigued by the workings of the law and interested in pursuing a lucrative and in-demand career path, becoming a paralegal in New Mexico could be the perfect option. Like lawyers, paralegals may choose to specialize in an area of law, such as wills and trusts, family law or immigration law, but don’t incur the debt of law school. These professionals work in a variety of legal settings and take on responsibilities such as drafting legal documents, conducting in-depth research, lending support to attorneys and keeping files organized and orderly. In order to get started as a paralegal, however, you will need to meet standards set by the state of New Mexico.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in New Mexico
The state of New Mexico does not require formal certification for paralegals. But it is necessary to meet certain standards for education or experience in order to be approved to start working. Here are the steps that most paralegals follow as they begin their careers:
Learn about Paralegals
Before making any firm commitments, study what it is like to actually work as a paralegal in order to determine if this is the ideal career path for you.
Gain the Right to Work
New Mexico requires paralegals to have a baseline amount of training in paralegal studies before beginning to work.
Connect with Employers
Demand for paralegals in New Mexico is strong, but candidates will still need to practice smart job searching, networking and professional branding strategies if they are going to find a job or access the most prestigious positions available.
Paralegal Education Requirements in New Mexico
In order to meet the state’s requirements for paralegals, candidates must fulfill at least one of the following requirements:
- A high school diploma and seven years of substantive legal work
- A certificate from a program approved by the American Bar Association
- An associate’s degree in paralegal studies
- A bachelor’s degree with either a major or minor in paralegal studies
- A certificate from a national program
- A law degree
Earning Paralegal Licensure in New Mexico
As long as candidates meet at least one of the requirements for education or experience, they are fully qualified to start working as a paralegal in New Mexico. It is important for candidates to carefully vet any paralegal studies certification or degree program before beginning to verify that it is recognized by the state.
Paralegals can earn voluntary national professional certification offered by agencies such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) however. These certifications are offered on different experience levels and require you to pay a fee and pass a rigorous exam. They must also be kept current by earning a required number of continuing education units every two years. They are respected designations that show employers you take your chosen career seriously and are dedicated to excelling in it.
Paralegal Salary in New Mexico
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2019-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook says the median annual salary for paralegals on a national scale is $49,500, and New Mexico paralegals earn very close to the national average. In fact, the mean annual wage in New Mexico is $42,230, with the highest 10 percent in the state earning more than $62,370.
Salaries may increase depending upon years of experience in the field and location. For example, Las Cruces paralegals earned an average of $45,460 annually, and Albuquerque paralegals earned $43,060. Those working in Santa Fe earned $44,400.
Paralegal Career Opportunities in New Mexico
The demand for paralegals in New Mexico is considered to be on average to the national job growth rate. The BLS estimates that there are 1,600 paralegals currently employed in New Mexico. The demand for paralegals nationwide is expected to grow by 15 percent through 2026, which is higher than the national average for all professions.
Those who meet the state’s requirements often work in law firms or for the in-house legal departments of large companies. Paralegals are also in demand at a wide range of government agencies.
Final Steps for Success as a Paralegal
Finding your first job as a paralegal is just the initial step in your career journey. In order to earn more money, responsibility and peer prestige, you will need to pursue continuing education and professional development opportunities on an ongoing basis.
NALA is the largest professional organization for paralegals and has a number of resources to offer, including specialized certification programs. The state and national Bar Association can also be a resource for education, training, and networking. Paralegals can stand out from the professional pack by developing skills and credentials relevant to a specific area of the law and becoming a specialist in that field.
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