The paralegal job market is growing rapidly. Nationally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for paralegals to grow by 28 percent by the year 2018 ( www.bls.gov/oco/ocos114.htm#outlook). In Illinois, the job market for paralegals is also projected to grow by 25 percent by the year 2018. (https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/lmi/pages/employment_projections.aspx). In DuPage County, the projected growth rate for paralegals within the same time period is 28%.
However, as is noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "this occupation attracts many applicants, creating competition for jobs." ( www.bls.gov/oco/ocos114.htm#outlook) Experienced, formally trained paralegals who have been successful in their paralegal studies classes and have strong writing and technology skills will have the best job prospects.
During recessions, demand declines for discretionary legal services (wills, real estate), and corporations reduce certain types of law-related activity. However, demand increases for legal services in other areas, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, and divorces. Some paralegals may face layoffs and others may find themselves in more demand, depending on the nature of their work. Paralegals may fare better than lawyers during recessions because they provide some of the same legal services at a lower cost. ( www.bls.gov/oco/ocos114.htm#outlook). Please note that completion of the COD paralegal program does not guarantee employment as a paralegal. As noted above, paralegals who are most likely to obtain jobs following graduation are those who have done well in their paralegal studies classes and have strong writing and technology skills.
Paralegal salaries vary greatly depending on education, training and experience, as well as the type and size of the employer and the geographical location. Nationally, based on May 2014 data, the median annual wage for paralegals is estimated at $48,350. ( www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm#nat). However, current economic conditions have depressed salaries in all employment sectors.
Depending on the workplace and nature of the work, paralegals can experience high job satisfaction because they are frequently given a great deal of responsibility and independence in performing their work (although their work is reviewed by the supervising attorney). In addition, many paralegals meet the public on a regular basis. Paralegal jobs can offer much variety as well as intellectual challenges, and paralegals experience the rewards of serving a client's needs as part of a legal team.
The length of the program varies depending upon the program in which you are enrolled. College of DuPage has two program tracks, one for students seeking a college degree (Associate in Applied Science -AAS degree program), and another for students who already have either a two-year or four-year degree and are seeking a post-degree Paralegal Certificate (Certificate Program). Students without previous college credit who attend school full-time (15 to 18 credit hours per semester) can obtain an Associate in Applied Science degree in Paralegal Studies in two years. Students with a college degree who attend school full time (12 to 15 credit hours per semester) can obtain a Paralegal Certificate in one year.
However, the courses are rigorous and demanding, and it may be in the student's best interests to take less than a full load each semester. There is no required time period within which to complete the program.
Students are expected to locate a practicum site on their own by undertaking a self-directed search, which gives them valuable job-search skills. The Coordinator provides a letter of introduction for the students to use as they search for their internship, as well as a list of prospective internship sites and a variety of resources for obtaining an internship. Before receiving the instructor's consent to enroll in the practicum, students must demonstrate that they have obtained a practicum site, or have made significant efforts to obtain one. Students who have difficulty obtaining a practicum site can seek suggestions from the Program Coordinator. Students currently working in a law office may use their existing job to fulfill the work requirement for the practicum, as long as their supervisor is an attorney who agrees to serve as their site mentor and assign them paralegal work that is outside the scope of their ordinary duties.
More about the Paralegal Practicum.
Sally N. Fairbank, Program Chair
Berg Instructional Center (BIC), Room 1471A, (630) 942-2955
Teresa Dietz, Program Support Specialist
Technical Education Center (TEC), Room 1008
Anika Collins, Program Advising
Berg Instructional Center (BIC), Room 1454D, (630) 942-3961
Business and Applied Technology Division
Technical Education Center (TEC), Room 1034, (630) 942-2592