Alaska might have a small population relative to the geographical size of the state, but there is an immense need for experienced legal professionals. There are oil drilling rights to be concerned about, rights of Native Americans and Eskimos that need to be protected, and the number of legal cases involving fisheries is rather astounding. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of why Alaska continues to have a strong need for qualified, professional, and certified paralegals. In Alaska, law firms, large corporations, and government agencies employ a majority of paralegals. The amazing thing about this state is that a paralegal practicing his or her profession in a rural area of the state often commands a higher salary than those in more metropolitan areas. This illustrates the importance of professional and experienced paralegals across all sectors of Alaska’s economy.
Paralegal Certification and Requirements in Alaska
Long ago, Alaska’s Supreme Court developed what is referred to as the Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3. Basically, this resulted in a requirement that practicing lawyers in the state directly supervise all non-lawyer assistants within their employ. This includes paralegals. This rule also stipulates that lawyers are the individuals responsible for providing instruction to their paralegals in the areas of ethics and confidentiality. To highlight the importance of this, the Supreme Court has mandated that lawyers also assume responsibility for the professional conduct exhibited by their paralegals.
Because current legal policy puts the responsibility onto the shoulders of the lawyer to train their own paralegals, there is currently no set training or educational requirements that must be met prior to becoming employed in the field. This does not mean that lawyers or governmental agencies will hire assistants with a degree, however, as most set their own educational standards that need to be met prior to them offering a candidate a position. As such, paralegals can better position themselves for landing a job in Alaska by either earning a certificate in paralegal studies, obtaining an Associated or Bachelor’s degree in a related field, or applying for a position with an organization that offers an on-the-job training program.
Training to Become a Paralegal in Alaska
There are several different options to receive adequate training to become a paralegal in Alaska. Some will opt for on the job training, and this certainly has its advantages for those just starting in a career. The disadvantage, of course, is that starting salaries tend to be on the lower end of the spectrum, and options can be limited. Many employers, particularly government agencies, will be looking for a paralegal that has either a certificate, or has a minimum of a general studies education diploma from an accredited college or university.
In Alaska, there are a variety of associate and bachelor degree programs that are offered specifically in the field of paralegal studies. Many students will opt to supplement their studies with general education courses in order to given them a broader spectrum of learning and be more appealing to prospective employers. Such degree programs can take anywhere for two to five years to complete.
There are also a variety of certificate programs that aspiring paralegals can complete in Alaska. The advantage here is that they take less time and do not require any general education courses to be taken. Many such programs also do not have previously higher education requirements, and students can focus solely on paralegal studies in order to gain entry into the field more quickly. The only major downside to this is that salaries tend to be a bit lower absent a degree, but individuals can always resume their studies at a later date to earn their Associates or Bachelor’s degree.
Schools Offering Paralegal Education in Alaska
There are currently two different colleges and universities in Alaska offing a degree program in paralegal studies, both in Anchorage. These include Charter College of Anchorage and the University of Alaska in Anchorage. In addition, there is a one school in the state that offers a certificate program for paralegals and legal assistants. Due to the fact that Alaska is such a physically large state, many students find that attending one of these programs on a traditional college campus is simply not possible. Because there are no set training and educational requirements in Alaska, however, many find that an online paralegal studies certificate program is a better fit for them to get their foot in the door.
The Job Outlook and Salary Potential for Paralegals in Alaska
Paralegals in Alaska earn a mean salary of just over $52,000. There are currently less than 700 paralegals employed in the state of Alaska, but keep in mind that the overall population is only 500,000. The percentage of paralegals in the state that are currently over the age of 50 is 32 percent, which bodes well for young professionals desiring to enter the field in the near future.