Environmental Paralegal Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of an environmental paralegal career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming an environmental paralegal is right for you.
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What Are the Pros and Cons of an Environmental Paralegal Career?

Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, are legal professionals who assist lawyers in organizing and preparing cases for trial. Read the pros and cons of becoming an environmental paralegal to decide if it's right for you.

Pros of a Paralegal Career
Above-average income (median annual salary of about $48,350 in 2014)*
An associate degree is the typical educational requirement for this position*
Experience can mean less supervision from employers*
Paralegals may be viewed by many law firms as cheaper alternatives to lawyers*

Cons of a Paralegal Career
Strong competition expected for most positions*
Long hours and overtime are sometimes required*
Some positions may only be temporary*
Work experience is commonly required for employment*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Duties

An environmental paralegal could be a paralegal that helps a lawyer organize and prepare environmental cases, which could mean work in clean energy, public health or toxic tort laws. As an environmental paralegal, you might be responsible for performing research, helping to draft legal documents, sitting in on meetings or taking notes during courtroom proceedings.

Paralegals are also responsible for administrative tasks, such as keeping legal records, fielding telephone calls and scheduling appointments for lawyers. Some of your daily job duties could include filing pleadings with clerks, organizing evidence exhibits, preparing affidavits, writing legal briefs or meeting with clients. You may also be responsible for analyzing research data, finding articles and legal precedents, maintaining legal libraries and calling upon witnesses to testify.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals earned a median annual salary of about $48,350 as of May 2014. Top earners in this field made upwards of $77,000 per year during the same time, while the lowest-paid made less than $30,000, according to the BLS. From 2012-2022, the BLS reported that paralegals are expected to see a 17% increase in employment, which is about as fast as average.

Requirements

Education

The educational requirement for paralegal positions is usually an associate degree in legal or paralegal studies. Bachelor's degrees, and even master's degrees, are also available, but are not typically required. Through an associate degree program, you could take classes in areas like legal research, legal document drafting, litigation and management principles. You could also learn about keyboarding, document formatting, business law and criminal law. If you already hold an unrelated bachelor's degree, you may choose to complete a certificate program in paralegal studies to gain the appropriate training and experience for employment.

Skills

Reading comprehension is an important skill for a paralegal because many of the primary responsibilities of the profession include research. Paralegals must also be active listeners who can relay information to lawyers clearly and concisely. Other skills could include critical thinking, writing and decision making.

Job Postings

Typically, firms and organizations hiring environmental paralegals want candidates with relevant education and work experience in the field. Check out the following job postings listed by employers in May 2012 to get a feel for what it takes to get this job.

  • A paralegal is needed at an environmental law firm in Maryland. This employer did not specify an education level, but environmental paralegal experience was required. This firm is offering between $16 and $20 an hour to successful candidates.
  • A paralegal is needed at a firm in Texas that offers legal services and specializes in environmental law. The minimum qualification for this position is a high school diploma and three years of paralegal experience, although bachelor's degree holders may not need to hold any work experience.
  • A legal staffing company in Pennsylvania is looking for paralegals to contract to other companies. Five years of experience and at least a paralegal certificate is required for the position. This job pays up to $60,000 per year.

How to Stand Out

To stand out as a paralegal, you could earn certification through an organization like the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Certification can help you demonstrate your competency in the field to prospective employers. Since work experience in environmental law is preferred by employers of environmental paralegals, you might consider completing some environmental coursework as you complete your paralegal studies program. You might also complete an internship with a law firm that would offer you experience in environmental cases.

Alternative Careers

Executive Administrative Assistant

If you want to work in administration but you aren't interested in legal research, you could consider a career as an executive administrative assistant. The minimum educational requirement for an administrative assistant is usually a high school diploma, although certificate and associate degree programs in executive administrative assistance are available and could be beneficial to you. In some cases, work experience is required to advance to the position of executive administrative assistant. In 2011, the BLS stated that these professionals earned a median annual salary of about $46,000. From 2010-2020, the BLS predicted that employment for these professionals would increase by 13%.

Medical Secretary

If you're interested in working in the medical field, or in a field that's expected to much-faster-than-average-growth experience growth, you might consider becoming a medical secretary. From 2010-2020, the BLS stated that these professionals will see a 41% growth in employment. In 2011, the BLS reported that they earned a median annual salary of about $31,000. Some postsecondary education is typically required to work in this field, so you will typically be expected to complete a certificate, diploma or associate degree program for medical secretaries.

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Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
  • Master of Public Administration - Government and Policy

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Legal Studies
  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Paralegal

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

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Seton Hall University

  • Certificate: Post Conflict State Reconstruction and Sustainability

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice - Intelligence & Crime Analysis Track

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctorate: Management - Environmental & Social Sustainability
  • M.S. - Criminal Justice
  • BS - Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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