Virginia Paralegal Career and Salary Guide
Our Virginia paralegal career guide is your starting point for launching your career as a paralegal or legal assistant. On this page, you will find information on how to become a Virginia paralegal, certification options in the state, career and salary outlook, and professional resources. While there are no statewide standards or certifications required for paralegals in Virginia, many jobs in the field require a degree in paralegal studies, such as an associate degree. Start learning about how to become a paralegal in Virginia with the easy-to-navigate directory below.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Paralegal in Virginia
- Paralegal Certification
- Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Resources
How to Become a Paralegal in Virginia
There are no statewide requirements for Virginia paralegals, allowing paralegal candidates and legal assistants to take many career paths. Most entry-level paralegals in Virginia have a certificate or associate degree in paralegal studies or have a combination of education and real-world work experience. Many also choose to explore voluntary certification through a national or state association to be as competitive as possible when searching for job opportunities.
1. Earn a degree or certificate in paralegal studies.
Currently, there are no mandated minimum educational requirements for paralegals in Virginia. However, prospective paralegals and legal assistants are strongly encouraged to pursue a degree or certificate at one of Virginia paralegal schools prior to seeking employment. These programs typically culmninate in certificates, associate degrees, or bachelor’s degrees, and include practical training in professional skills. The American Bar Association (ABA) has approved six paralegal programs in Virginia.1
2. Gain experience.
Through degree and certificate programs, paralegal candidates often receive on-the-job training through internships and job shadowing opportunities. Obtaining this level of experience is highly desirable for employers seeking entry-level paralegals.
3. Seek certification, if desired.
Although certification is optional for Virginia paralegals, voluntary paralegal certification can be highly desirable for employers who are seeking committed and knowledgeable paralegal candidates. Virginia paralegals can seek certification through national and state associations.
Paralegal Certification in Virginia
In Virginia, 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.
To become a certified paralegal, individuals must complete a voluntary certification program offered through a recognized paralegal organization. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA, the Paralegal Association), the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), and the National Association for Legal Professionals (NALS) all offer comparable certification programs designed to establish a high standard of excellence for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide. For more information on national certification options, take a look at our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.
Virginia paralegals may also pursue certification through the Virginia Alliance of Paralegal Association (VAPA) as a Virginia Registered Paralegal (VARP). In order to qualify for the VARP credential, paralegals and legal assistants must be voting members of any VAPA member association and have one of the following qualifications:
- A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from an accredited institution and one year of substantive legal experience
- A bachelor’s degree in any subject from an accredited institution, a certificate from an institutionally accredited paralegal program, and one year of legal experience
- A bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited school and three years of paralegal experience
- A bachelor’s degree in any subject, a paralegal certificate from any non-institutionally accredited paralegal program, and two years of paralegal experience
- An associate’s degree in paralegal studies and two years of paralegal experience
- A certificate from an institutionally accredited paralegal program and three years of paralegal experience
- An associate’s degree in any subject from an accredited institution and four years of paralegal experience
- A paralegal certificate from a non-institutionally accredited paralegal program and four years of paralegal experience
- Five years of paralegal experience and six hours of continuing legal education (at least one hour in ethics)within the preceding two years
- Certified Paralegal status or other paralegal credential approved and recognized by VAPA
Virginia Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
Though paralegals and legal assistants are required in all types of organizations, law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies continue to be the leaders in paralegal employment. Most entry-level Virginia paralegals have completed an associate’s degree or certificate in paralegal studies. Recently graduated paralegals and legal assistants may find job opportunities through contacts made during internship programs and career services offerings associated with their degree programs. Generally, large, urban law offices require the greatest degree of paralegal support and offer the highest paralegal compensation. These firms may be more likely to assign work in various legal subject areas, giving paralegals an opportunity to specialize in a particular legal field.
Ashcraft & Gerel, LLP is a nationally ranked law firm headquartered in Richmond specializing in mass tort litigation, personal injury litigation, and compensation law. Spilman, Thomas, and Battle, PLLC is a full-service law firm with offices in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. As one of the region’s largest firms, Spilman serves clients ranging from local startups to Fortune 500 companies and practices in a wide range of legal specialties. Vandeventer Black LLP is another large firm that may offer entry-level positions to qualified paralegals. Founded and based in Richmond, Vandeventer Black LLP is an international firm with additional offices in North Carolina, California, and Germany. Vandeventer Black offers services in a wide range of legal disciplines and places emphasis on the importance of paralegals within the legal team. In an effort to deliver the most cost-effective service to clients, large law firms often delegate high-level tasks to paralegals, allowing a large degree of responsibility and career mobility. These firms may be good starting places for prospective paralegals seeking a large, multi-practice area work environment.
Corporations offer slightly different career opportunities and may be well-suited for paralegals interested in such specialty areas as finance law, product liability, or advertising. Virginia hosts many Fortune 500 companies including Freddie Mac, General Dynamics, Capital One Financial, and the Altria Group, all of which may have in-house legal departments needing paralegal assistance. Government agencies and local insurance group branches may also offer promising positions for paralegals looking to gain valuable work experience.
LinkedIn is a good research resource where you can search on geography (Virginia or city-level) for “paralegal” to find networking opportunities and also companies most associated with users identifying as paralegals; companies in Virginia with the most LinkedIn users as paralegals include:
- Capital One
- Hunton & Williams LLP
- McGuireWoods LLP
- US Army
- U.S. Department of Justice
- US Navy
For more information about paralegal careers, take a look at our careers page.
Virginia Paralegal Salary Information
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Virginia from 2018-20282
There are an estimated 10,430 paralegals and legal assistants employed in Virginia.2 Paralegal and legal assistant employment is expected to increase 12% nationwide from 2018 to 2028, according to Projections Central, but only 3.4% in Virginia.3 These projections coincide with observable trends in paralegal and legal assistant employment in both law firms and in internal legal departments at corporations nationwide. The combination of these new positions and the increased importance of paralegals in the larger legal sphere should result in a very positive employment environment for paralegals throughout the next several years.
The average annual salary for Virginia paralegals and legal assistants is $53,400.3 This wage compares favorably with the national median paralegal wage of $56,610.3 Large law offices based in urban centers like the National Capital Region (NCR, encompassing parts of Virginia and Maryland along with Washington DC) generally have the highest demand for paralegals and offer the highest paralegal compensation. For example, the Washington DC-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan corridor has one of the highest concentrations of employed paralegals in the nation.3 Paralegals in the area also have an annual average wage of $70,700, which is one of the top paying in the US for paralegals and legal assistants.3 Smaller offices may offer slightly lower compensation but can sometimes offer a greater degree of scheduling flexibility. Formal education and national certification will continue to be the best way to enter the field and compete for a higher paralegal salary in Virginia.
Virginia Paralegal Salary by Metro Area
|Average Annual Salary4
|Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC
|Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metro
Paralegal Associations in Virginia
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.
- Fredericksburg Area Bar Association (FABA): Seeks to provide an open forum for Fredericksburg paralegals and legal assistants to discuss issues and pursue career development.
- Local Government Paralegal Association of Virginia (LGPA): Focuses on the needs of paralegals employed by government offices located within the Commonwealth of Virginia and hosts regular conferences and continuing education events for members.
- National Capital Area Paralegal Association (NCAPA): Promotes the interests of paralegals and legal assistants in the DC/Maryland/Virginia (DMV) area through a mentorship program, continuing legal education, and a members only jobs bank.
- Paralegal Association of Northern Virginia (PANV): Strives to promote paralegal and legal assistant interests throughout Northern Virginia through guest speaking events, regular member meetings, professionally-oriented events, and pro bono service opportunities.
- Richmond Paralegal Association (RPA): Seeks to promote professionalism, public service, and networking for Central Virginia paralegals through regular meetings, mini-seminars, and continuing education opportunities.
- Roanoke Valley Paralegal Association (RVPA): Serves Roanoke Valley paralegals and legal assistants, offering monthly meetings with guest speakers, educational seminars, and community service events.
- Tidewater Paralegal Association (TPA): Promotes professional recognition of paralegals and continuing education for legal professionals in the Tidewater area through monthly dinner meetings, study groups for professional certification, and annual seminars and receptions.
- Virginia State Bar : Offers paralegals and legal assistants access to current legal news and has a comprehensive employment board with statewide opportunities.
- Virginia Peninsula Paralegal Association (VPPA): Promotes the paralegal profession in southeast Virginia through education, certification, and a network of professional support.
- Paralegal411 Jobs Board: Search for Virginia paralegal jobs on our jobs board.
- University of Virginia Arthur J. Morris Law Library: Housed within the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, the Arthur J. Morris Law Library is open to the general public and offers a wide-ranging collection of print and electronic volumes, including nearly 5,000 rare books on subjects in Anglo-American legal history.
- Virginia’s Judicial System: Provides links to all state and local courts as well as hosts an online e-filing services, case status and information, and employment opportunities.
- Virginia State Jobs Board: Hosts a job board dedicated to government paralegal jobs.
- Virginia State Law Library: Comprehensive reference collection that is open to paralegals working under the supervision of an attorney.
- Wahab Public Law Library: Located in Virginia Beach, this public law library houses over 12,500 print volumes and provides access to electronic legal databases, research software, and provides e-mail delivery of select documents from electronic legal resources free of charge.
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