How to Become a Paralegal in Oklahoma
Becoming a paralegal is a great way to enter the legal profession and begin a career that promises to be personally and professionally rewarding. Paralegals work behind the scenes in all types of legal settings, supporting the work of lawyers and other legal professionals. Their common duties include drafting documents, keeping files and information orderly and accessible, and conducting in-depth research into obscure areas of the law. Read on to learn what you will need to do to get started as a paralegal in Oklahoma.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in Oklahoma
There are many ways to get started as a paralegal, which incorporates a degree of flexibility into this particular professional path. But before getting started, you will want to complete several important steps:
Study the Paralegal Field
Learn what paralegals do all day, and seek out a practicing paralegal for insider information. That way you can feel confident this is the right career track for you.
Get Education and Training
Seeking out accredited education and formal training in paralegal studies significantly opens up job opportunities.
Plan Your Future
Before searching for your first job, decide what areas of the law interest you and what parts of Oklahoma offer the most appealing job prospects.
Paralegal Education Requirements in Oklahoma
It is not strictly required that paralegals have any formal education in Oklahoma. But the state Bar Association has set forth guidelines recommending that any paralegal candidate have obtained one of the following levels of education and experience before being offered a job:
- Completion of a national certification program
- Completion of an ABA-approved paralegal studies program
- Completion of high school and any paralegal studies program
- Completion of any bachelor’s or associate’s degree program as well as coursework or work experience related to the paralegal profession
- Completion of high school as well as five years of substantive work experience
Earning Paralegal Licensure in Oklahoma
Technically, anyone can begin working as a paralegal if they are interested in the law and have a job offer. But in almost all cases, employers will give higher priority to candidates who have fulfilled the requirements outlined by the State Bar Association and who have an education in legal studies. As competition may be intense for these careers, it is suggested that getting a degree and professional certification is the smarter path to a paralegal career.
Paralegal Salary in Oklahoma
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the annual mean wage for Oklahoma paralegals is $43,310, with the top 10 percent earning over $66,010.
Paralegals in larger cities, such as Tulsa, earned an average of $42,640. With the median national salary for paralegals resting at $49,500, you can see that the state of Oklahoma is just under the national average.
Paralegal Career Opportunities in Oklahoma
The demand for paralegals in Oklahoma is strong by national standards. There are estimated to be 2,800 paralegals employed in Oklahoma, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the demand for paralegals will increase by 15 percent nationwide, but that the demand in Oklahoma will increase by 10 percent through the year 2026.
Most paralegals work for law firms, large companies, or government agencies, but opportunities exist in a wide range of settings, industries, and areas of the law.
Final Steps for Success as a Paralegal
Once you get your first paralegal job, you have accomplished something significant. But if you want to continue your career trajectory and momentum, you need to make continuing education and professional development a long-term priority.
National professional organizations like the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) both offer ambitious professionals access to a wide range of resources, including professional certification opportunities.
Professional certification is voluntary, and these credentials show employers you are serious about the commitment and ethical standards that are critical to a successful paralegal career. You must pay a fee and pass a rigorous exam in order to earn a certification, and you must complete continuing education units to keep your certification valid. Continuing education is recommended for paralegals anyway, just because state and federal laws can change frequently.
The state and national Bar Association are another good resource to rely on. In a general way, the most successful paralegals in Oklahoma seek out new skills and training, participate in conferences and networking groups, and contribute to the local and national conversation surrounding the paralegal profession.
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