The steps to becoming a paralegal in the state of Massachusetts involve knowing what you want and then obtaining the education you need to get the type of job you want. Earning an education is the first step in establishing yourself as a professional paralegal in the state of Massachusetts. While earning an education is important, the need for work experience is also something that can’t be overlooked. The more experience you gain through internships or jobs within a legal office or other types of setting will help you lay the foundation for a long and lucrative career.
Becoming a paralegal in Massachusetts will involve making several career decisions. Do you want to work in a law firm, county courts, or in a corporate setting? Are you interested in learning a specialization that will allow you to target a specific type of law? Having a specialization will allow you to work in one of the many different areas of law, including family, criminal, probate, corporate, or immigration. It will allow you to focus on one particular type of law and excel in that area.
Paralegal Requirements in Massachusetts
In addition to earning a degree or completing another type of educational program, you will also have to gain valuable work experience. Many people who choose to become paralegals will sometimes do so after they are hired into an entry-level position at a law firm or in another type of legal environment. Making the decision to return to school, especially if they choose an online degree or certification program, is quite easy. By going to school online, they can continue to work and gain the experience they will need to continue to advance on their career path.
While certification in Massachusetts is voluntary, it is highly recommended. Earning a certification involves locating an organization that offers the testing and licensing/certification credentials that you need and are recognized on a state or national level. Both the Massachusetts Paralegal Association and the Western Massachusetts Paralegal Association are available to help students receive their certification. The National Association of Legal Assistants offers certification opportunities to students who are ready for that step.
To become a reputable paralegal, you will want to find a paralegal degree program that offers you all of the skills, abilities, and knowledge you will need to be successful. Not all programs are approved by the American Bar Association. That does not mean they aren’t quality programs. It is important to note, however, that ABA-approved paralegal programs are often looked at by employers as providing more merit to the overall coursework and lessons offered to students.
Employers will also look at whether a degree program was earned online or on-campus. This is not to judge the quality of the coursework, but more to determine the commitment of the student. Students who choose an online degree program will normally do so because they are already working. Going to school while holding down a full-time job shows that the student will do what it takes to get the tools they need to be successful.
ABA-Approved Paralegal Programs in Massachusetts
ABA-approved paralegal programs in Massachusetts offer students an education that is endorsed and supported by the American Bar Association. It guarantees that the degree program includes all of the necessary skills and abilities that are required to be proficient in their duties. As for paralegal degrees, it is an indicator that as a graduate, the individual will be able to sit for and successfully pass an in-depth certification or licensure exam that may be needed for them to act as a paralegal.
ABA-approved paralegal programs can be found in most universities and colleges in the state of Massachusetts. If you want to find out the status of a degree program, you can either call the school that offers it or go directly to the American Bar Association and look there. If you have in-depth questions, you should be able to call either the school or the ABA to get the answers you need. Programs that have received ABA approval must continually be re-evaluated to ensure they are always meeting or exceeding the strict standards of the organization.
Online Paralegal Programs in Massachusetts
Online paralegal programs in Massachusetts offer students an education that is second to none in the New England area. They provide the education a student needs to thrive in such a fast-paced environment. By offering the programs online, they also give them the opportunity to find a job and explore the many career options that are presented to them. While on the job, they can begin to earn the experience they need to possibly choose a specialization or maybe even choose to move forward and become an attorney.
The benefits of enrolling in an online paralegal program are far-reaching. Students have the flexibility they need to be able to study and work at the same time. They can do their homework when it fits best into their schedule. Students also benefit from the one-on-one time they get with their instructor. They can ask questions and communicate freely without having to worry about being interrupted by other students or distractions that can take their minds off of the task at hand. Online learning also exposes students to the latest advancements in technology.
Certification and Licensure
No certifications or licenses are required for paralegals to work in the state of Massachusetts. Although they are not required, they are strongly recommended. Many employers look for candidates who have been certified by either the National Association for Legal Assistants or a state group like the Massachusetts Paralegal Association. Even though the certification is not required, it offers the employer the benefit of knowing that the potential new hire is capable of performing all of the duties and responsibilities that will be asked of them.
Paralegal Certification in Massachusetts Online
Paralegal certification in Massachusetts can easily be achieved online. Many certification programs offer online training that will allow an employee to become certified without having to enroll in a full degree program. This allows them to take advantage of new employment opportunities while they are both working and learning. Certification bridges the gap between experience and education and will help students who never went to college gain an advantage.
Certification will also keep current employees up to date on any new technology or knowledge that can be useful to them. This is especially useful if they have a specialized field such as criminal or family law. Certifications will also help them look for new opportunities if they would ever choose to return to school. Once their certification or license is in place, they will have to take a specific number of continuing education hours each year to remain in good standing. Many students will enroll in a reputable paralegal degree program and kill two birds with one stone.
Massachusetts Paralegal Certification
Earning a Massachusetts paralegal certification will not only make you a more desirable candidate during the hiring process, but it will also make you a valuable asset once you start work. Certifications are meant to test your knowledge. They are also meant to challenge you. Certification programs are designed to supplement a degree program, not replace it. When looking for a good paralegal certification program, look for one that encourages growth and strives to push you past the boundaries you have set for yourself.
In Massachusetts, a paralegal certification may not be required, but it is most definitely recommended. Earning a certificate or license will give you the credentials you need to validate your past experience and keep you prepared until you are ready to return to school to earn your degree. It doesn’t mean that returning to school is a necessity. You may work in a very diverse environment where everyone works together, teaching the skills they know and broadening one another’s horizons.
Massachusetts Paralegal License
Massachusetts does not require any type of licensing to become a paralegal. Although it does strongly recommend becoming certified, paralegals only need to apply for most entry-level positions to be considered. In an entry-level position, they can begin to learn everything they will need to know. This type of on-the-job training provides them a level of education that cannot be achieved in a classroom. Learning in a fast-paced, legal environment encourages students to think on their feet and try new tasks. By learning from those around them, they are encouraged to try new things and explore new possibilities.
Job Market and Salary
In Massachusetts, the job market for paralegals is quite strong, especially in the field of corporate law. The outlook for paralegals who choose to work in law firms and government offices is also quite strong. Salary is most often affected by the location in which a paralegal is trying to find work. If the area is remote, the firm or office in which they are employed may have limited financial resources, which will, in turn, affect the amount of their pay.
In larger metropolitan areas, a paralegal working for a large law firm or corporation can expect to make much more than someone with better qualifications who work in a very rural area. Finding a happy medium in a mid-sized city is the best chance to get an appropriate salary off. The more experience you have as well as whether or not you are certified will also play a definite role in how much you make per year. If you only have a certification, enrolling in an online paralegal degree program is the best bet to raise your earning potential.
Massachusetts Paralegal Salary
The amount of salary you earn as a paralegal in Massachusetts will depend on what experience you have, if any, whether or not you are certified, and where you live. The more experience you have, the higher your starting pay will be even for entry-level experiences. Having a certification will also get you a boost in pay. Offering to return to school to earn an online paralegal degree may also get you additional benefits. That will vary from employer to employer, however.
Working in a legal setting such as a major law office can get you anywhere from $35,000 per year to start to $80,000 per year with five to ten years of experience. Working in the field of corporate law can be extremely lucrative if you want to work on contracts and the other legal aspects of running a business. The pay range for a corporate paralegal starts at approximately $50,000 and can go to $97,000 or higher, depending on the financial resources of the business. With the right education and credentials, you may be able to go in and state your own wage.
Paralegal Jobs in Massachusetts
There are many different paralegal jobs to be found in the state of Massachusetts. Paralegals are commonly found in organizations like Legal Aid, city and county courts, large corporations, as well as large non-profits. Any place that has a legal team or department may be able to offer you a position. Explore your options by contacting the American Bar Association or the Massachusetts Bar Association. Both organizations know the job market and help guide you as to where you should focus your efforts.
Starting Your Career as a Paralegal in Massachusetts
Once you have made up your mind to become a paralegal, it is up to you to take action. Apply for entry-level positions such as a file clerk or receptionist. Make it known that you are interested in taking on more responsibilities. Once you have gotten a few concepts and skills under your belt, enroll in a certification program that will give you the credentials you need until you can finally earn your degree. Continue to look for ways to advance your career. Focus on a specialty and try to learn as much as you can about areas of law that intrigue and interest you. The sky is the limit if you stay focused on your future and keep working toward your goals.