Pennsylvania Paralegal Career and Salary Guide
Our Pennsylvania paralegal career guide is your starting point for becoming a paralegal or legal assistant. While there are no statewide standards or certifications required for paralegals in Pennsylvania, many jobs in the field require an associate degree or certificate in paralegal studies. On this page, you will find information on how to become a paralegal, salary information and career outlook for paralegals in the state, and career resources, as well as answers to the most common questions about Pennsylvania paralegal certification. Start learning how to become a paralegal in Pennsylvania with the easy-to-navigate directory below.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Paralegal in Pennsylvania
- Paralegal Certification
- Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Resources
How to Become a Paralegal in Pennsylvania
As there are no statewide standards or regulations for becoming a paralegal in Pennsylvania, prospective paralegals and legal assistants may take many paths to become a paralegal professional. Most entry-level paralegals in Pennsylvania have an associate degree in paralegal studies or have completed a paralegal or legal assistant certificate program. Some Pennsylvania employers may also offer on-the-job training.
1. Earn a degree or certificate in paralegal studies.
Though there are no mandated minimum educational requirements for paralegals in Pennsylvania, prospective paralegals and legal assistants are strongly encouraged to seek formal training or education in the field prior to seeking employment. To become more competitive as candidates for paralegal positions, most professionals start by completing one of the many paralegal programs in Pennsylvania offering certificates, associate’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. Currently, the American Bar Association (ABA) has approved 12 paralegal programs in Pennsylvania.1 These programs generally give students a background in substantive legal areas as well as practical training in professional skills.
2. Gain experience.
Through paralegal educational programs, candidates can participate in on-the-job experiences such as internships and job shadowing. Law firms and corporate legal departments throughout Pennsylvania may also offer real-world opportunities through internships.
3. Seek certification, if desired.
Although obtaining certification is optional for Pennsylvania paralegals, voluntary paralegal certification can be highly desirable for employers who are seeking committed and knowledgeable paralegal candidates.
Paralegal Certification in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, paralegals are called paralegals or legal assistants. Pennsylvania state law does not currently regulate the education, training, or employment of paralegals and legal assistants. Within Pennsylvania, paralegals and legal assistants are classified as legal paraprofessionals and are permitted to perform certain legal tasks under the direct supervision of a qualified attorney. Paralegals and legal assistants are not permitted to practice law in any capacity.
Although certification is not required, obtaining voluntary paralegal certifications can show commitment, a desire for excellence, and provide networking opportunities. National organizations offer certification programs to maintain a consistent level of competency within the paralegal profession nationwide. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA, the Paralegal Association); the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA); and the American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI) offer voluntary certification programs that are widely accepted by the industry as preparing candidates for professional excellence. Obtaining voluntary certification from these associations is highly recommended and well-respected by paralegal employers. For more information on national certification options, take a look at our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.
Once paralegals have completed a degree program, some may choose to obtain Pennsylvania paralegal certification through the Keystone Alliance of Paralegal Associations (KAPA). KAPA’s Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal Credential Program (PaCP) is a voluntary certification program designed to ensure a continuing standard of excellence for paralegals and legal assistants in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
Pennsylvania paralegals and legal assistants find work at corporations, banks, government agencies, and private law firms throughout the state. Regional or national law firms generally support the largest number of paralegal support staff and may have good opportunities for recently certified paralegals and legal assistants. These firms generally practice in multiple legal areas and may subdivide paralegal support, allowing individuals to specialize in a particular legal subject. K&L Gates, based in Pittsburgh, is one of the largest law offices in Pennsylvania. This full-service law firm operates internationally and has offices in many US cities. This network of offices gives paralegals a degree of geographic flexibility as well as the opportunity to get an in-depth view of several legal departments. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP is another international law firm with a large contingent of attorneys based in Philadelphia. This firm offers continuing education and training programs for newly hired paralegals with mentoring programs based upon the legal subject area. Both of these firms may have good opportunities for paralegals seeking a large, international firm environment.
Other large corporations in the state that may offer paralegal or legal assistant jobs include Comcast, Sunoco, Rite Aid, United States Steel, Aramark, and Erie Insurance Group. Additionally, various government agencies and financial organizations may offer positions for recently certified paralegals looking to build experience and engage with a variety of legal areas. LinkedIn is a good research resource where you can search on geography (Pennsylvania or city-level) for “paralegal” to find networking opportunities and also companies most associated with users identifying as paralegals; companies in Pennsylvania with the most LinkedIn users as paralegals include:
- City of Philadelphia
- Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
- Pepper Hamilton LLP
- Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office
- Reed Smith LLP
For more information about paralegal careers, take a look at our careers page.
Pennsylvania Paralegal Salary Information
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Pennsylvania from 2018-20282
As of May 2020, Pennsylvania firms and government agencies employed 11,960 paralegals and legal assistants across the state.3 As law firms seek to minimize the cost of providing legal services, paralegals and legal assistants are expected to adopt a more substantial role within the legal community. The United States is projected to experience a 12% job growth rate for paralegals and legal assistant jobs in the US from 2018 to 2028, which is close to the projection of 12.7% growth for these professionals in Pennsylvania over the same time period.2 Pennsylvania is expected to add 1,520 paralegal and legal assistant jobs between 2018 and 2028.2 Overall, the fast and considerable expansion of the paralegal and legal assistants profession should create a favorable hiring environment for formally educated and nationally certified paralegals and legal assistants in Pennsylvania. As in most other states, paralegal jobs in Pennsylvania are highly concentrated around urban areas, particularly Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.3
The average annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants in Pennsylvania was reported at $58,490 in 2020 by the BLS.3 This average annual wage is higher than the national average wage for paralegals and legal assistants at $56,610.3 The Philadelphia metropolitan area has the fifth-highest employment level of paralegals and legal assistants in the nation.3 The high number of existing paralegal positions, particularly in urban areas of the state like Philadelphia, shows the strong presence of paralegal employers. These employers are likely to experience the national trend of paralegal expansion, creating new jobs across the state.
Prospective professionals should note that those who make a higher-than-average paralegal salary in Pennsylvania frequently specialize in high-demand areas of the law. Specialization paired with education and experience can also help paralegals become more competitive in the job market. Work environments also have an impact on salary; for example, private law firms may offer higher paralegal salaries than government agencies. Ultimately, building your skills in an area of law that interests you is the best way to stay invested in your work and advance your paralegal career. Formal education and certification will continue to benefit paralegal candidates as the profession expands. Estimates are based on national data, not school-specific information; data accessed in October 2021.
Pennsylvania Paralegal Salary by Metro Area
|Metro Area||Number Employed4||Average Annual Salary4|
Paralegal Associations in Pennsylvania
These are volunteer organizations, typically with elected boards, that focus on professional development and networking for a specific geographical location and/or area of law.
- Central Pennsylvania Paralegal Association (CPPA): Serves paralegals throughout central Pennsylvania with the mission of advancing the paralegal profession and encouraging continuing education.
- Chester County Paralegal Association (CCPA): Promotes high standards, ethics, and networking within the paralegal community in Chester County.
- Delaware County Paralegal Association (DCPA): Hosts multiple professional events throughout the year for its membership, including general meetings and speaker panels.
- Lancaster Area Paralegal Association (LAPA): Provides networking opportunities and a communication forum for local paralegals while advocating for the paralegal profession.
- Lycoming County Paralegal Association (LCPA): Helps paralegals and legal professionals network and enhance their professional knowledge through legal seminars, lunch and learn meetings, and other networking opportunities.
- Montgomery County Paralegal Association (MCPA): Provides access to an exclusive job bank and listserv, and hosts monthly meetings and seminars on current paralegal topics of interest.
- Philadelphia Association of Paralegals (PAP): Promotes the paralegal profession and encourages individual members’ professional growth through skills development, education, and networking.
- Pittsburgh Paralegal Association (PPA): Assists members in finding opportunities for professional growth while advocating for the paralegal profession.
- York County Paralegal Association (YCPA): Promotes awareness and utilization of paralegal work while assisting members with professional advancement opportunities.
- Jenkins Law Library: Subscription-based law library that offers reduced membership fees for students enrolled in paralegal programs in Pennsylvania.
- Paralegal411 Jobs Board: To find paralegal jobs in Pennsylvania, be sure to visit our jobs board.
- Pennsylvania Bar Association: Provides a regularly updated job board that include positions for paralegals and legal assistants.
- Pennsylvania Paralegal Interview: Our interview with Ryan M. Davidson, attorney and co-author of The Law of Superheroes.
- Pennsylvania Paralegal Interview: Our interview with Employment Lawyer Phillip Miles.
- Pennsylvania Bureau of State Employment (PBSE) Jobs Board: Robust job board that includes links to registering for civil service positions within the state.
- Philadelphia Courts: Gives visitors access to court forms, electronic filings, and fee schedules.
- Pennsylvania State Law Library: Houses a comprehensive collection of documents in multiple formats relating to state and federal law.
- Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: Provides portals to all courts operating within Pennsylvania, from the state Supreme Court to the minor courts.
- University of Pennsylvania Law School Biddle Law Library: Comprising over one million volumes, this law library provides comprehensive material for all types of legal research.
1. American Bar Association Directory of ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/
2. Projections Central Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm