How Do I Become a Paralegal in Washington DC? 

If you’re curious about becoming a Washington DC paralegal, you may already know that you love the law. Whether you have experience working in a law firm or not, working to become a paralegal can open your eyes to how you can use the law to help others. As a paralegal in Washington DC, you’ll be a part of a thriving market that will help you succeed.

A paralegal helps lawyers with anything and everything they need to work on a case, from scheduling clients to doing research to completing paperwork. Paralegals help a law office run smoothly and work closely with attorneys to help people fight for their legal rights. Many paralegals eventually go on to become attorneys themselves.

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Let’s take a look at what it takes to become a paralegal, how much you’ll make as a paralegal, and the steps you’ll need to take to advance your career once you get started. 

What do I need to do to become a paralegal?

While it can sound confusing, there’s a difference between earning a paralegal certificate and becoming a certified paralegal. Becoming a certified paralegal in Washington DC is the higher of the two distinctions.

A person who earns a paralegal certificate went through education to become a paralegal, and may already have a job as a paralegal at a law firm. While this person may have the title of a paralegal at work, they are not a certified paralegal. A person who has the title of a certified paralegal went through a training program at one of the paralegal schools in Washington DC,  and took a certification exam to ensure that they’re well qualified. A certified paralegal also has a certain amount of work experience. 

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As you work to become a paralegal, it’s smart to go through an internship with a law firm. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be working full time. A part-time internship – even a couple of hours a week – at a reputable law firm can be a huge boost to your resume after you finish your paralegal education. In the Washington DC area, internship opportunities are plentiful and can help you develop relationships that will benefit you down the line as you begin to apply for paid paralegal jobs.

Many law firms allow you to work as a paralegal while working toward becoming certified. If you’re going through the interview process to become a paralegal, talk with potential employers about whether they’ll cover the cost of your education. You may be able to get the work experience you need while also going through your paralegal education.

What’s the typical salary for a paralegal?

In the United States, the average salary for a paralegal is $51,000 per year. In large urban environments, such as Washington DC, the salary tends to be higher than the national average. There are many factors that go into how much a paralegal makes, including performance during paralegal education, completion of paralegal internships in Washington DC, work experience, work performance, and more. 

How can I increase my paralegal salary?

As a paralegal, you have a skill set that is valuable, and you’ll typically be able to advocate for yourself when it comes to raises and initial salary offers. Be sure to fully develop your resume to showcase all of your experience when you begin applying for paralegal jobs. Including internship experience, volunteer experience, and all education (even education that only slightly relates to your paralegal skills) can be helpful in allowing you to stand out against the sea of resumes that employers receive for jobs.

Can I advance my career as a paralegal?

In order to advance your career after you understand how to become a paralegal in Washington DC, you’ll want to join the National Capital Area Paralegal Association. Being a part of this organization will allow you to network with other paralegals, allowing you to develop the connections and resources you need to grow in your career. In addition to joining the NCAPA, you’ll want to talk with your boss about how to continue to move forward in your career. You may want to further your education and start attending law school or become a supervisor of other paralegals. Your supervisor will be able to work with you to develop a career plan that gets you where you want to be.

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