Iowa Paralegal Career Guide
This page is your comprehensive guide to launching a career in the paralegal and legal assisting field. Here you will find Iowa paralegal salary and job outlook information, career resources, and answers to the most common questions about how to become a paralegal in Iowa. Start your career journey using the easy-to-navigate directory below.
Table of Contents:
- Paralegal Careers
- Job Outlook in Iowa
- Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Certification
- Career Quick Start Tips – How to Become a Paralegal in Iowa
- Additional Paralegal Resources
Though corporations, insurance firms, and government agencies require paralegal support, law firms remain the largest employers of legal assistants and paralegals throughout the nation. Nyemaster Goode PC is Iowa’s largest law firm and has offices in Des Moines, Ames, and Cedar Rapids. This diverse firm practices in virtually every area of law and may provide promising Iowa paralegal jobs for those interested in working in a large legal environment. Stowers & Sarcone PLC in Des Moines is an established criminal defense firm that could be well-suited for paralegals interested in trial practice and preparation.
In addition to law firms, Iowa hosts many large corporations that often post paralegal jobs, including Principal Financial, Casey’s General Stores, and Rockwell Collins. Local, regional, and state government agencies may also post paralegal jobs in Iowa and can be a good fit for those interested in public policy and government.
Job Outlook in Iowa
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Iowa from 2016-20261
In May 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 2,160 paralegals and legal assistants working in Iowa, a notable increase over the 1,570 paralegals and legal assistants counted in May 2011.2 As employers seek to minimize the cost of providing legal services, law firms and internal legal departments are expected to increase dependence on paralegal and legal assistant support services. This shift will expand both the breadth of tasks allocated to paralegals and increase the overall number of paralegal positions nationwide.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected 15% employment growth for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide from 2016 to 2026.3 This projected growth compares favorably with the average projected growth for all professions and the average projected growth for other legal professions, at 7% and 11% respectively through the same time period.3 The growth in Iowa paralegal jobs over this time period is expected to be even faster, at a projected 21.7%.1
Iowa Paralegal Salary Outlook
The average Iowa paralegal salary was reported at $48,130 in May 2017.2 This annual wage falls below the national median wage for paralegals and legal assistants, reported at $53,910, but the difference may be partially explained by the relatively low cost of living in Iowa.2 Prospective Iowa professionals should also note that the average paralegal salary in Iowa is higher in urban areas; for example, Des Moines-area paralegals earn an average salary of $55,400.2 Overall, the job and salary outlook for paralegals in Iowa is positive. The projected nationwide expansion of the paralegal occupation suggests that Iowa will yield favorable hiring trends throughout the next decade.
Iowa Paralegal Salary Info By Metro Area
A quick look at paralegal salary in Iowa by metro area:
|Metro Area||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Des Moines-West Des Moines||880||$55,400|
|Sioux City IA-NE-SD||120||$43,250|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.4
Paralegal Certification in Iowa
Iowa paralegal certification is not currently required to work as a paralegal or legal assistant in the state. Paralegals and legal assistants have been designated as legal paraprofessionals and may work under the direct supervision of a qualified attorney. Though some law firms and corporate legal departments continue to offer onsite training, many employers require candidates to have completed formal training, such as that offered by various Iowa paralegal programs. Generally, programs offered by paralegal schools in Iowa include an introduction to procedural law, training in formal writing, and instruction on legal research methods and presentation. One Iowa paralegal program has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
It is strongly recommended that paralegals seek professional certification through a national organization following completion of an Iowa paralegal program. National organizations such as the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offer generally recognized paralegal certification examinations. The Iowa Association of Legal Assistants is affiliated with the National Association of Legal Assistants and endorses NALA’s Certified Paralegal examination. However, other national certification exams are offered that may be acceptable to Iowa employers, especially for candidates who have received formal paralegal training at an accredited school. You can get a better idea of the typical requirements for Iowa paralegal jobs on our jobs board. You can also learn more about national certification through our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.
Career Quick Start Tips — How to Become a Paralegal in Iowa
Because Iowa paralegal certification is not a requirement for working paralegals, there are a number of career paths that prospective paralegals in the state can follow. Most paralegals have a combination of education and experience, which may be direct work experience or experience gained through internships while attending one of the paralegal schools in Iowa. Taking specialized courses can also help future paralegals prepare for the workforce.
As Iowa is a national hub for insurance companies, paralegals may find promising Iowa paralegal jobs in corporate legal settings with appropriate training. Banks and other financial industries in Des Moines and the surrounding areas are also expected to undergo expansion and provide opportunities for recently certificated and certified paralegals. Obtaining national certification will greatly increase employment prospects for prospective paralegals and legal assistants throughout the state. For more information regarding paralegal education and employment in Iowa, please refer to the Iowa paralegal associations listed below.
Paralegals are central to the operations of the firms for which they work and are uniquely positioned to make a positive difference. A paralegal’s success is based in part on his or her ability to provide the right resources when and where they are needed. The following Iowa paralegal career resources can help you set yourself apart.
Iowa Paralegal Career Books
- Iowa Legal Research – Specifically written for legal professionals in Iowa, this book explains how to develop efficient research strategies for finding Iowa law based on cases, statutes, and regulations. In addition to primary sources, the text covers secondary sources of law and gives practice tips for constructing legislative histories. Also included is a chapter on legal ethics.
- Iowa Legal Forms – Updated annually, West’s Iowa Family Law and Rules is an up-to-date compendium of statutes and regulations relating to family law in the state. The text explains family member rights in relation to one another as well as topics covered less frequently such as mental health, rules of juvenile procedure, and more. Also included are commonly used forms corresponding to family law actions.
- The Paralegal Ethics Handbook – All legal professionals should have a thorough understanding of ethics, and paralegals are no exception. This text specific to paralegal ethics in practice explains a paralegal’s obligations with tips for remaining ethical under a variety of circumstances. The text examines different situations paralegals may face in a variety of work environments, from in-house paralegals to freelance professionals.
Paralegal Job Search Websites for Iowa
- Iowa Paralegal Association – Regularly posts paralegal jobs in Iowa.
- Iowa State Bar Association Career Center – includes paralegal jobs in Iowa from across the state on its jobs board.
- Paralegal411 jobs board – For even more paralegal jobs in Iowa, be sure to visit our jobs board.
Iowa Court Info
- IowaCourts.gov – The Iowa Judicial Branch maintains a comprehensive website for all courts in its jurisdiction. On this site visitors can view court dockets, news of interest, and e-filing systems. Also available are up-to-date court rules and forms and legal research tools.
Law Libraries in Iowa
- Iowa State Law Library – Part of the Iowa State Library System, the State Law Library is located in the State Capitol Building in Des Moines. The state’s collections focus on sources of Iowa law and legislative history, though numerous volumes are held in federal law. Legal professionals are welcome to access the library’s holdings.
- University of Iowa Law Library – The University of Iowa Law Library holds one of the largest collections of legal materials in the US, with over 1.3 million volumes and volume equivalents. The library welcomes visitors for on-site legal research and extends access to many of its electronic databases to guests. Major collections include American Law, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law, and the renowned Boyd Presidential Collection.
- Drake Law Library – On the Drake University campus in Des Moines, the Drake Law Library has an entire wing dedicated to its Iowa legal collections. The library also has comprehensive collections in federal and international law and subscriptions to a range of research databases. Current members of the bar may apply for checkout privileges, though the library collections are mostly non-circulating.
Paralegal Associations in Iowa
- Iowa Paralegal Association – The Iowa Paralegal Association was founded in 1987. The organization seeks to advance the legal profession and the status of legal support staff and is an affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants/Paralegals (NALA). Annual dues are $90 for active members, $60 for associate members, and $25 for student members.
1. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Legal/Paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-5
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Iowa: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ia.htm
5. American Bar Association: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/