A career as a paralegal can lead you down many different paths. Paralegals can find jobs in judicial courts at the city, county, state, and federal levels. They are also sought after in corporate settings as well. They can perform many of the same tasks in a corporate office that they would in a law firm or legal office. Paralegal organizations and associations in New Jersey and across the country will sometimes hire paralegals to work within their ranks to assist others in furthering their careers.
The process of becoming a paralegal in New Jersey is rather simple. It is also voluntary. There are two ways a person can become a paralegal. The first is rather “old school” and normally doesn’t occur much anymore unless a person hires into a law firm as a clerk and continues to move up the ladder. Individuals who get jobs in legal offices may begin to assume paralegal duties before they actually enter a degree program. With the experience and on-the-job training they receive, many can pass the certification test and begin working as paralegal without earning the actual degree.
The other path to becoming a paralegal is to enroll in a paralegal degree program. If a student is already employed, they may choose to attend their classes online. Both certification and degree programs are available over online learning platforms and will allow students to continue working in the legal field while they continue to pursue their careers. Once they have completed their studies, they can sit for the state or national certification test. The next step after passing the test is looking for a paralegal job or informing their boss that they have passed.
Paralegal Requirements in New Jersey
There are no real requirements in the state of New Jersey for becoming a paralegal. Certification is voluntary and many individuals are often hired into a law firm under an internship or as a clerk. Once they are hired in, they can begin the on-the-job training they need to become a certified paralegal. After working in the field for so many years, they will have learned enough of what they need to know to sit for the state or national paralegal certification exam. The test will validate all of the years of experience they have spent learning the necessary skills they need to be efficient as a paralegal.
Individuals who choose to enroll in an online or on-campus paralegal degree program can earn the skills they need through ABA-approved degree programs. If they choose an online program, they can begin looking for work while they are still in school. Those who choose to take classes on-campus, may not be able to go to work immediately. They might, however, be able to find work in an internship or mentorship program. After graduation, they can take their certification test and find a job they enjoy. It’s important to note that most employers will give an extra look at an applicant who has a degree in paralegal studies.
There are both certification and degree programs in paralegal studies. Certification programs are normally much shorter than degree programs. Some can be completed in six months to a year. Degree programs, both online and on-campus, can take two to four years to complete. Students often enroll in their paralegal studies degree programs right out of high school. Others choose to enroll after they have been employed in the field for a while. Those who go to work first normally have received on-the-job training that provides them with many of the same skills they would have received if they had enrolled in a degree program.
ABA-Approve Paralegal Programs in New Jersey
An ABA-approved paralegal degree program simply means that it has the seal of approval from the American Bar Association. The American Bar Association has very strict standards concerning what skills should be taught to paralegal students who hope to be efficient at their job. These programs are evaluated on a regular basis to ensure all of the criteria are met to maintain their status. Many employers will look for a student who has earned an ABA-approved paralegal degree. This ensures that the student has all of the skills they will need to succeed in the field.
ABA-approved paralegal degree programs also give students the credentials they need to be eligible for advanced employment opportunities they may not have had if they only possessed a certification. Enrolling in a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree program that has the approval of the American Bar Association is a great way to ensure that you get the highest-quality education available in the state of New Jersey. It also ensures that you are fully prepared to take the state and national certification exams if you choose to do so.
Online Paralegal Programs in New Jersey
Online paralegal programs in New Jersey offer quality curriculums that provide the same in-depth course work that a student would expect to receive in a classroom setting. Students often choose an online learning platform because it allows them to continue to work and support their families. Online degree programs allow students the flexibility to work when it best fits into their schedule. Some students learn best at night, while others may do better first thing in the morning.
The online learning platform also gives students a chance to interact with their instructors on an individual basis without having to fight other students for the attention they need. Students can study whenever and wherever they need to, as long as they have access to an internet connection.
Certification and Licensure
The state of New Jersey does not require a certificate or license to work as a paralegal. Although certification is preferred, it is only a recommendation and not a requirement to get hired. There are several organizations that offer paralegal certification in the state of New Jersey. At the national level, the National Association of Legal Assistants and the Association of Legal Professionals offer certification programs that will allow the graduate to work as a paralegal anywhere in the country.
There are no licensing requirements in the state of New Jersey. Certification programs are the only type of credentials that are offered to graduates or paralegals who are already on the job.
Paralegal Certification in New Jersey
In the state of New Jersey, students can receive state certification from either The Paralegal Association of New Jersey (an affiliate of NALA) or the South New Jersey Paralegal Association ( an affiliate of NFPA). Both organizations offer students an option to take their certification and be able to claim the credentials when they begin to work in the state of New Jersey. The certification process does not take long to complete if you have already earned your paralegal studies degree through an ABA-approved educational program.
Completing the certification process can be completed before the student actually graduates from school if they have already been employed as a paralegal for a specific amount of time. Certification programs can take as little as six to nine months to complete and will provide all of the basic skills and knowledge a paralegal candidate will need to be successful in their chosen profession. Most employers will help their paralegals earn their certification if it is something they really want to accomplish.
Job Market and Salary
The job market in New Jersey is wide open. Paralegals can find jobs in many different areas. It stands to reason they will be able to work within the legal field. Paralegals can also find work in judicial offices ranging from small cities to large metropolitan areas. If they don’t want to work in a law office, they can use their legal skills and find a job working in the legal department of a large corporation. Their duties will be drafting legal documents, following up on any legal action, and creating and executing a variety of different contracts.
Paralegals in the state of New Jersey can earn anywhere from $55,000 to $75,000 per year if they have a college education, a certification, or five to ten years of experience. While education is extremely important, earning experience in the legal field will carry almost as much weight as a diploma. When it comes to a paralegal’s salary, the more education or experience they have, the more they will be offered as a starting wage. Some may even receive a sign-on bonus.
New Jersey Paralegal Salary
In New Jersey, a paralegal’s salary is normally based on three primary factors. The first is location. It stands to reason that someone who works in a larger law office in a major city will make more money on average than a paralegal who works in a small law firm in the country. The second factor has to do with the experience they have earned. Most paralegal candidates hire in an entry-level position like a file clerk or a receptionist. While they are working in this capacity, they can return to school and enroll in an online degree program so they can complete their education.
Finally, most employers look for some degree of experience when they hire paralegal candidates. Just as in any other type of profession, there are specializations that a candidate can pursue that will allow them to fine-tune their skills and give them the type of career they want. This is why many paralegals look for degree programs that offer internships to their students. If a student wants to earn an internship position, they must receive higher than average grades and prove that they are up to the challenge.
Paralegal Jobs in New Jersey
There are many different types of paralegal jobs in the state of New Jersey. Law firms are the most popular place for a paralegal to find employment. Graduates can usually find work in a legal office with or without certification or specialization. Specializations do help in this particular area because the paralegal can assist the attorney when working in several different areas of law. While a specialization is not required, it is always extremely beneficial.
In addition to law firms, city and county courts also hire paralegals to work within the judicial system. Their duties include working with the judges, legal secretaries, and government legal team as they perform their day-to-day duties. Large corporations also hire paralegals to handle many of the legal issues they face. This can include filing cases with the courts and writing or reviewing legal contracts between the company and other entities, both personal and professional. While working as a paralegal is a career in itself, this type of position opens the door to many other opportunities as the person continues to gain experience.
Paralegal Career Options
When a person starts out as a paralegal, it doesn’t mean that is the highest level they will be able to achieve. Some may go on to be office managers in a law firm or the supervisor of a legal department of a large corporation. Others may choose to return to school as an instructor or legal advisor. A paralegal who has several years of experience can pass that valuable information onto their students. A paralegal can choose to teach in a classroom or on an online learning platform. Paralegals who have a lot of experience in the field can add depth to the lessons they teach that they may not otherwise have had.
Other possible career options for paralegals include working for one of the many paralegal associations that assist new paralegals in finding the resources they will need to build their careers. Finally, a paralegal may choose to go back to school and enroll in a law degree program. Since they already have a strong foundation with their paralegal degree, they can jump right into the legal courses and begin to prepare to become a lawyer. This is one of the best career options a paralegal has if they truly want to make the most of their education.