In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 2,000 people in the state of Utah were working as paralegals. Moreover, paralegals represented about one quarter of all legal professionals in the state of Utah. So this is clearly a popular profession for those in Utah, but how does one go about becoming a paralegal?
The state of Utah does not require that prospective paralegals undergo any kind of formal education before taking the Bar Exam. This means that anyone wishing to pursue a paralegal career in Utah is free to simply begin on-the-job training, should they be lucky enough to find it without an education.
While the state of Utah does not require a formal education of paralegals, the Utah State Bar does encourage them to become nationally certified as Certified Legal Assistants/Certified Paralegals by the National Association of Legal Assistants. To qualify for this certification, there are requirements for both educational experience as well as field experience. This means that an education is not required at the state level, but may be required for national certifications.
Most certification programs can be pursued at an associate, bachelor, or masters level. For those that have already completed schooling, many certification programs will offer a specialization in paralegal studies without the need for a second collegiate degree. Others may require nothing but a high school diploma to gain certification and assist in new paralegals finding legal work. While there are a lot of options, one should always err on the side of more education rather than less. The competitive job market means that the more education one has, the more employment opportunities they are likely to receive.
For those that do wish to attain a paralegal education, programs should be looked at with a discerning eye. Not all of these programs are in-depth and not all of them will cover the material that will be required for the Bar Exam. One should also be sure to attend an accredited school for future certifications and employment prospects. Factors like this can greatly effect a paralegal’s eligibility for employment as well as their position in any kind of professional organization.
The good news is that there are many accredited universities in the state of Utah that offer paralegal programs. There are fourteen universities that offer paralegal/legal assistant degrees in Utah, so each potential paralegal should look at these options to asses which university best fits their needs. Read reviews of these programs and think about how that university would look on a resume. Also be sure to consider how past graduates of that program has done. Even for a private university, if there is a 30% employment rate among their graduated paralegals, that is a definite red flag. Education is important in the legal field, so take some time to choose carefully.
Paralegal Job Outlook
Utah is a competitive market for those beginning their careers as paralegals, but this does mean that there are many firms to choose from. For those trying to get a leg up on the competition, they should consider joining the Utah Paralegal Association. This group works to ensure the success of their members and can not only help with attaining certifications, but also with how to succeed in Utah’s legal field. This insider knowledge is invaluable to new paralegals and should be strongly considered.
Paralegals in Utah can expect to make some decent money; the state average for a paralegal is just under $42,000, which is a fair living. The top ten percent of paralegals, however, made more than $60,000 on average. This means that a paralegal can expect a moderately comfortable salary to start off with, and the potential to grow that by nearly $20,000 more per year if they are successful. Like any field it is tough to get that high up, but it is far from impossible with the proper hard work in the field.
Paralegal studies continues to be a popular field of study in Utah, and for good reason. It offers a livable salary and the Utah Paralegal Association actively seeks the success of new and aspiring paralegals. For anyone willing to take the time to carefully plan out their career, there is a lot of success that can be found as a paralegal in the state of Utah.