Colorado Paralegal Education, Career and Salary Guide

There are no Colorado paralegal requirements as the state doesn’t require a paralegal to have an education prior to looking for employment in the field. However, when looking into how to become a paralegal in Colorado, you’ll find that your best option is to earn a certificate or associate’s degree in order to secure employment. Employers in the legal field prefer to hire people who have earned a post-baccalaureate paralegal certificate at the very least. The reason behind an employer’s requirement for education comes down to the need for a paralegal to have basic training at the very least prior to starting their employment.

The role of the paralegal requires a basic ability to write and comprehend legal documents that withstand scrutiny, are able to support a lawyer’s work, and be able to handle the daily duties of the paralegal without issue. Earning a paralegal certificate or degree helps you gain entry into the field of law and start an interesting and exciting career as you assist in the preparation of legal cases.

Learning how to become a paralegal in Colorado begins by finding paralegal courses at a community college or university. Make sure that the program that interests you is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). This all-important accreditation ensures that the education you receive is on par with the accepted standards of paralegal education that are expected by the legal industry. In other words, what you learn in class is designed to prepare you for working as a paralegal upon graduation.

In the event you find that you enjoy the field of law as a career, you can return to school in order to earn advanced degrees that open up more roles. You can start with a paralegal certificate, then get an associate’s degree in paralegal studies to further refine your knowledge and increase your earning potential. From there, you can opt to earn your bachelor’s in legal studies in order to provide a high level of support to lawyers as well as being able to work more independently. Last, but not least, you can earn a master’s in legal studies to work in the higher levels of the paralegal field, or take the LSAT and apply to law school. While it’s true that none of these degrees are considered paralegal requirements in Colorado, you may find that you want to follow this course of action to become proficient, even expert, as a paralegal in Colorado.

 

Education

It’s easy to get an education in Colorado to become a paralegal, but you need to make sure the program you’re considering is approved by the ABA. ABA approved paralegal programs in Colorado are the gold standard in educational quality. What that means for you as a student is the surety that you’re receiving a paralegal education that helps you find employment in the Colorado legal industry, and makes your education worthwhile. Here’s a look at the different levels of education that aid you in your desire to become a paralegal:

Certificate

A paralegal certificate program is typically offered to students who have already completed their bachelor’s degree in another area of study. It takes an average of 30 credit hours to earn a professional certification, but all schools are different in their requirements for completion. Earning a certificate is an excellent option for someone who wants to change career focus or add another professional skill to their resume, such as a nurse who wants to work in the legal side of the healthcare industry.

Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree in paralegal studies is a two-year program that covers all the major concentrations of law. A student spends time learning about topics that include:

  • Wills and estates
  • Bankruptcy
  • Criminal
  • Real estate and property
  • Contracts

Students also learn how to draft documents according to legal standards, legal terminology, interview clients, write pleadings, conduct investigations for case material, and how to support an attorney in their daily schedule. Some courses are designed to teach a student to take the NALA Certified Paralegal exam to further add to their credibility. Internships are often a requirement for graduation, and can often lead to an offer of employment upon graduation. The benefit of an internship comes in the form of giving a student the opportunity to practice their newly-learned skills in a working environment and receive guidance from people who have extensive experience in the role.

Graduating with an associate’s degree in paralegal studies qualifies a student to enter the profession at the entry level. Paralegals are expected to have the aforementioned capabilities to perform their role, then learn more about the law as they progress in their career. In the event you find career satisfaction as a paralegal, you can opt to return to school and earn a bachelor’s degree in paralegal or legal studies at a later date.

Bachelor’s of Paralegal Studies

In the event you want to get your bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from start to finish, you can do so while still qualifying to work as a paralegal after two years. A bachelor’s of paralegal studies prepares a student to learn more detail about the field of law as a whole. It also offers the opportunity to focus on learning more about the areas of law you’re interested in pursuing as a paralegal. A bachelor’s of paralegal studies program combines the two-year study program of a paralegal, then builds upon the initial concepts through coursework.

Something to keep in mind when looking into getting an online paralegal certification in Colorado is the fact that the ABA does not approve online programs. However, schools that have an in-person paralegal program that’s approved by the ABA will teach an online course in the same manner as the in-person format. Before you decide to get your paralegal certification in Colorado online, talk to an advisor about the acceptability of the degree among employers.

A bachelor’s of paralegal studies enables a student to become proficient in areas that include:

  • Identify legal issues and apply a basic analysis using legal theories
  • Perform paralegal tasks in a government, corporate, judicial, or any similar legal environment
  • Have familiarity and the ability to apply legal ethics and codes of conduct
  • Perform legal research via manual and electronic methods
  • Show the ability to help with preparing legal documents and communicating clearly with attorneys
  • Demonstrate working knowledge of the American legal system

The ABA does approve educational programs for bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies which gives the degree weight with employers. Programs can and do differ from school to school, but as long as the ABA has approved the curriculum, you can be assured that you’re getting an education that is recognized. You can also feel confident knowing that your investment in your education will pay off in the form of a wider career path and the ability to work at the higher levels of the paralegal profession.

Bachelor’s of Legal Studies

A bachelor’s of legal studies is similar to a bachelor’s of paralegal studies but offers more concentrations. You can earn a bachelor’s of legal studies with a paralegal, pre-law, criminal justice, or business law concentration. The advantage to getting a bachelor’s in legal studies is that it prepares you to work in law-related fields as a paralegal that has advanced knowledge and skills. If your career goals include reaching the top ranks of paralegal titles, you’re going to need a bachelor’s degree along with work experience. Earning a bachelor’s of legal studies offers a broader education than a bachelor’s of paralegal studies while enabling you to maintain a career as a paralegal.

Master’s in Legal Studies

Some schools offer a master’s in paralegal studies, but they don’t offer much advantage over earning a master’s in legal studies. The master’s in legal studies is also an opportunity to have a level of knowledge similar to that of a lawyer, but without the need to attend law school and earn a JD. Earning an advanced degree is ultimately a benefit for your career, and going through a program for a master’s in legal studies offers up the widest possible range of jobs and highest income for a paralegal.

Certification/Licensure

There is no requirement for paralegal certification in Colorado due to the fact a paralegal works directly under the supervision of an attorney. A paralegal is barred from practicing law on their own but can learn the law and how it’s applied the same as a lawyer. It’s worth noting that the fact there is no Colorado paralegal certification does not guarantee employment. Employers expect their employees to have earned their paralegal certificate at the very least in order to prove they are capable of performing the duties of a paralegal. What a paralegal can do to show they have the necessary skills is to get certification from national paralegal organizations.

Earning certification from a national organization helps with the lack of options for Colorado paralegal certification and aids with employment opportunities. A paralegal has multiple paralegal organizations to choose from in order to get paralegal certification in Colorado, but the most well-known credential is the Certified Paralegal program from NALA. The Certified Paralegal program involves undergoing a rigorous testing process that puts your paralegal knowledge to the test. Successfully passing the test earns you the NALA Certified Paralegal credential that demonstrates your ability to be an effective paralegal to a prospective employer.

NALA certification for a paralegal graduate is similar to ABA accreditation for legal education. A graduate who earns their Certified Paralegal certification has joined an association that has created working standards for paralegals to measure themselves against. Paralegal associations seek to create a form of self-regulation for an industry that has no licensure requirement anywhere in the U.S. but requires participants to work at a high level of competency in order to support lawyers and the law in general.

Becoming a Certified Paralegal through NALA, or any other national paralegal association benefits all paralegals regardless of their overall educational goals. The fact that there is no Colorado paralegal license offered by the state means there’s no state standard for paralegals to be measured against. Paralegals tend to get around the lack of state certification or licensure by focusing on gaining experience in specific areas of the law, but certification helps show proof of expertise. You can earn your Certified Paralegal qualification through NALA or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), or earn both in order to bolster your credibility as a paralegal.

 

Job Market and Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for paralegals across the U.S. in 2020 was $52,920 per year. The average Colorado paralegal salary for a paralegal in 2020 was $62,950 and is considerably higher than the national average. It’s worth noting that this is the median salary and can vary depending on physical location, experience, education, and area of focus. Some employers, such as the federal government, pay a higher salary than others. However, an experienced paralegal can find good income in the private sector as well. The overall outlook for paralegal employment in Colorado is better than average as employers seek to hire fewer lawyers, but still need employees with legal training and experience.

As previously noted, the average Colorado paralegal salary is good, but not exceptional. However, law firms do give bonuses to their paralegals at the end of the year which can boost the average salary. Another way to boost the salary is to become an expert in one or two concentrations of the law and seek out work with employers who also concentrate in the same area of law. Last, but not least, continuing education in the form of returning to school or through self-study courses and seminars helps you stay abreast of the latest changes to the legal field. The more knowledge you possess as a paralegal, the more value you offer an employer, and the better your salary.

There is no direct data on the market for paralegal jobs in Colorado, but the paralegal field is expected to grow by 10% between 2019 and 2029. Someone who’s interested in becoming a paralegal can find themselves well-positioned for regular employment and job security if they earn their associate’s degree in paralegal studies in the near future. The driving force for growth in the paralegal industry comes down to private employers. Public employers will always need paralegals to take care of legal paperwork, but private employers have recognized the value of a paralegal in terms of their ability to effectively perform complex legal tasks the same as a lawyer. It’s predicted that corporations will drive the growth of Colorado paralegal jobs as they seek to save costs in their legal departments.

 

Related:

Top 10 Paralegal Programs in Colorado 2020

How to Become a Paralegal in Colorado

Ultimate Guide to State Paralegal Associations

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