The best way to become a paralegal in Vermont is to apply for and attend paralegal educational programs for a certificate or associates degree in paralegal studies. The state of Vermont has no licensing requirements for paralegals, but a paralegal is not a lawyer and cannot practice law without a supervising attorney present. However, you should undertake paralegal education classes at a college or university in order to learn how to become an effective paralegal and improve your chances at finding gainful employment.
The fact that the state of Vermont doesn’t require licensure for paralegals means that a law firm or attorney can opt to train a paralegal in-house if so desired. The problem with in-house training is that it doesn’t guarantee that the paralegal learns what they need to know. Law firms tend to have a narrow focus in terms of legal services and most likely will train a paralegal in a limited area of the law. Someone who wants to pursue a career as a paralegal is best served by getting a formal education from a school that has an accredited paralegal program.
Should I Get a Paralegal Certificate, an Associate’s, or a Bachelor’s Degree?
The more education you earn, the better your income and career prospects. However, you may not be certain if becoming a paralegal is right for you, but you want to find out if working in the field of law is more than a passing interest. Earning a paralegal certificate enables you to work at the entry-level and learn while working. In the event you discover that you do want to work as a paralegal, you can return to school and earn an associate’s degree in paralegal studies online or in person. Students who return to earn their associate’s degree at a later date may find that online paralegal programs and accelerated degree programs provide the necessary flexibility for maintaining their work schedule while improving their career outlook.
Earning an associate’s degree gives you more time to learn about the role of the paralegal, find internships, and become proficient in the various areas of law that a paralegal will encounter during their career. Entering the field with an associate’s degree aids in finding employment that offers more work options than the entry-level and typically at a higher level of pay. You can also apply for membership to the Vermont State Bar Association after a year of employment as a paralegal with an associate’s degree. Joining the Vermont State Bar Association gives a paralegal entry to a prestigious network of legal professionals and can help a paralegal build a reputation that helps them find quality employment.
There is also the option to get a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies and position oneself to go to school for a juris doctorate and work as an attorney in the future. For many, earning an associate’s degree is sufficient for beginning a career as a paralegal. The advantage of attending a four-year degree program is having advanced knowledge of the law, proficiency with the duties of a paralegal from coursework and internship experience, and training in how to perform advanced legal tasks. A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies can prepare a student to perform most of the same work as an attorney and earn a higher salary.
What’s the Career Outlook for Vermont Paralegals?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for paralegals in 2019 was $49,050, and represents a 2.8% increase over 2018. The state of Vermont shows there was a total of 727 paralegals employed in the state in 2018 and is projected to grow to 803 by 2028. There are an estimated 90 job openings at any given time on an annual basis. 50% of all paralegals in Vermont have an associates degree while 34% have a bachelor’s degree. These stats show that there is a demand for paralegals and there is slow but steady growth in the industry.
Employment for paralegals is stronger in urban centers due to population density and proximity to state and federal courts. There is less demand for paralegals in smaller population centers, but as long as there are law offices, there is a need for paralegals. Students should look to working in larger metro areas in Vermont in order to have access to a wide range of jobs and increased opportunities to work in different areas of the law. Paralegals who have expansive knowledge and experience in the various areas of the law are paralegals who make themselves more employable and increase their earning potential.