Paralegal Salary by Type and Location

How much does a paralegal make? Salary depends on a variety of factors, including which industry the paralegal works in and where they work. A paralegal’s experience and education can also influence salary. Regardless of hourly wage, many paralegals find the career rewarding because they get to work in a legal environment without having to go to law school. Learn more on how to become a paralegal.

Read this guide to learn about average paralegal salaries, types of paralegals with the highest salaries and the highest-paying locations for paralegals.

Salary by Paralegal Type

There are various types of paralegals, and some have higher earning potential than others. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2018 median pay for paralegals and legal assistants was $50,940 per year. The highest 10% earned more than $82,050.

If you’re wondering which paralegals make the most money, the BLS provides a breakdown of the types of paralegals and their 2018 median annual wages.

Federal Government Paralegal

Federal government paralegals work in law-related capacities for the federal government. For example, they may work on legal matters for organizations like the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) or federal immigration offices. The BLS reports the 2018 median annual wage for federal government paralegals and legal assistants was $67,340.

Finance & Insurance Paralegal

Finance and insurance paralegals work with organizations in the finance and insurance industries. This may include auto, home and medical insurance providers, banks and money managers. The BLS reports the 2018 median annual wage for finance and insurance paralegals and legal assistants was $62,020.

Local Government Paralegal

Like federal government paralegals, local government paralegals work in government settings to help lawyers. They may work in a government affairs office or with special district, water and regulatory enforcement attorneys. Local government paralegals and legal assistants may earn an average of $50,400, according to the BLS. The BLS’ report of local government paralegals excludes education and hospitals.

Legal Services Paralegal

Legal services paralegals help lawyers, such as car accident attorneys and workers compensation lawyers, who provide legal services to individuals and groups. Legal services paralegal and legal assistants earned an average of $48,880 for salary, according to the BLS.

State Government Paralegal

State government paralegals work for state government offices and may assist lawyers like public defenders. The BLS reports the 2018 median annual wage for state government paralegals and legal assistants was $46,970. The BLS’ report of state government paralegals excludes education and hospitals.

Best Paying Locations for Paralegals

The best paying locations for paralegals may have higher salaries for a number of reasons. Sometimes, the location has higher demand for paralegals. Other times, salaries correlate with cost of living expenses.

Here are some of the best paying cities and states for paralegals, according to the BLS’s Occupational Employment Statistics for paralegals and legal assistants.

Best Paying States for Paralegals

Best Paying States for Paralegals
State Paralegal Salary -2018 Annual Mean Wage
District of Columbia $80,470
Connecticut $62,760
California $61,240
Washington $60,940
Massachusetts $60,320

California, New York and Texas also pay paralegals well:

  • Average Salary for Paralegals in California is $61,240
  • Average Salary for Paralegals in New York is $58,750
  • Average Salary for Paralegals in Texas is $56,270

Best Paying Cities for Paralegals

Best Paying Cities for Paralegals
Metropolitan Area Paralegal Salary - 2018 Annual Mean Wage
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $86,630
Napa, CA $78,480
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA $74,860
Trenton, NJ $69,430
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV $68,820
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $68,730
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA $68,440
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA $65,980
Reno, NV $65,700
Hartford-West, Hartford-East, Hartford, CT $65,280

Other metropolitan areas that pay paralegals well include:

  • Boston — the average annual salary for paralegals in Boston is $62,170
  • New York City — the average annual salary for paralegals in NYC is $60,700
  • Houston — the average annual salary for paralegals in Houston is $59,800

Ways to Increase Paralegal Salaries

Paralegal salaries vary depending on industry and location, but there may be things you can do to increase your earning potential.

Strengthen Your Legal Skills

A great way to strengthen your legal skills is through continued learning. One option is to take up reading legal books. Or take advantage of online legal resources that explain laws and feature legal news. Another way to strengthen your legal skills is to network with other professionals. Attend conferences and consider joining national or local legal associations. If there isn’t one in your area, consider starting your own paralegal networking group to connect with peers.

You can also leverage your network online. You can use LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on job opportunities and build relationships. Improve your profile by asking people you’ve worked with for LinkedIn recommendations. While you’re at it, consider writing recommendations for them too.

Obtain Relevant Certifications

Certifications are a great way to continue learning and demonstrate your added value. Talk with your supervisor about certifications he or she recommends. Some employers may even pay for you to get certified or further your education. Look at professional organizations like the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and American Alliance of Paralegals to see what certifications are available.

Consider Higher Education

If you have your bachelor’s degree, you might consider getting a master of legal studies. The BLS reports the 2018 median usual weekly earnings for those with a master’s degree was $236 more than those with a bachelor’s degree. Over the course of a year, that’s roughly $12,306. A master of legal studies degree can help you apply for a new job or advance within your current organization so you can increase your salary.

If you want to increase your paralegal salary, an MLS degree can help. Continuing your education can help you expand your legal knowledge and even specialize in an area that aligns with your career goals. Online MLS programs may enable you to learn and study on your own schedule. If you’re currently working as a paralegal or want to become a paralegal, a master’s degree can help fast-track your legal career.

Negotiate a Higher Salary

Before you negotiate a higher salary with your employer, make sure you’ve done your research. Look into what professionals of similar experience and location make. When the time is right, be confident and present evidence of your accomplishments that make you worthy of a pay raise.

FAQs on Paralegal Salaries

Which paralegals make the most money?

Paralegal salaries may vary depending on which industries and cities they work, but most importantly their work experience. All of these factors affect their salaries to varying degrees. Based on our analysis in this article, typically paralegals with more work experience and higher education make the most money.

How much do paralegals make an hour?

The median pay of a paralegal was $24.49 per hour in 2018, equally $50,940 per year, according to BLS. However, locations and work experience also should be taken into account for salary comparison.

Is a paralegal a good job?

The answer to this question may depend on your interests and career goals. Paralegals may work closely with lawyers and other professionals providing legal services. They are not permitted to practice law, but their roles are crucial to the success of a case. With certain years’ of dedications in the field, paralegals could earn a reasonable salary.

Do you need a degree to be a paralegal?

Most paralegals have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies as a minimum. Higher education is preferred. However, there are only a few schools offering bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies. So if you are holding a degree in another field, you might consider a master of legal studies or certain paralegal certifications to advance your career.