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Washington DC Paralegal Career and Salary Guide

Our career guide is designed to answer the most common questions about how to become a paralegal in Washington DC. On this page, you will find information on how to become a Washington DC paralegal, salary and job outlook for the area, as well as resources to help you start your career in the legal field. Generally speaking, entry-level paralegal jobs in Washington DC will require a degree in paralegal studies, such as an associate degree or a certificate. Use the easy-to-navigate directory below to get started.

Table of Contents
How to Become a Paralegal in Washington DC
Paralegal Certification
Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
Paralegal Resources

How to Become a Paralegal in Washington DC

As there are no requirements for formal Washington DC paralegal certification, aspiring paralegals can follow many different career paths. The most competitive applicants for Washington DC paralegal jobs possess a combination of education and experience as well as national paralegal certification. Some paralegals start out as legal document preparers or legal secretaries and move up the career ladder. Paralegal candidates will continue to benefit from formal education in legal studies and national certification, as graduation from an accredited paralegal program and certification through a national organization may allow paralegal candidates within Washington DC to compete for higher salaries.

1. Earn a degree or certificate in paralegal studies.

Earning a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree from one of the paralegal schools in Washington DC can help potential paralegals build their legal skills and make them more competitive applicants for entry-level paralegal jobs. Currently, there is one approved American Bar Association (ABA) program in Washington DC.1

2. Gain experience.

Gaining experience is another step that many prospective paralegals take. Internships, job shadowing, and on-the-job training are often included as part of paralegal education programs. Not all paralegal programs require experience for degree credit, but taking advantage of real-world experience opportunities is highly recommended.

3. Seek certification, if desired.

Although Washington DC does not require licensure or certification for paralegals, pursuing voluntary certification can help paralegals in their job search. Certification is available at the national level for paralegals in Washington DC.

Paralegal Certification in Washington DC

Paralegals and legal assistants are currently categorized as legal paraprofessionals in Washington DC. In this capacity, they are permitted to complete legal tasks under the direct supervision of a qualified attorney but do not require paralegal certification. However, obtaining voluntary paralegal certification demonstrates a commitment to the field and may even 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 one of these associations is highly recommended and even if not required, will be looked upon favorably by paralegal employers. For more information on becoming a paralegal, take a look at our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal For more information regarding paralegal education and employment in Washington DC please refer to the Washington DC paralegal associations listed below.

Washington DC Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook

Though the paralegal profession has continued to expand across a wide range of industries, private law firms continue to be the primary employers of paralegals and legal assistants nationwide. The District of Columbia hosts the offices of many major national law firms with a strong contingent of international firms as well. Large firms tend to offer the most Washington DC paralegal jobs and typically offer more competitive compensation and benefits. These firms generally delegate labor based on subject area, giving paralegals the opportunity to specialize in a particular field of law.

Covington & Burling LLP is an established international firm founded and headquartered in Washington DC that practices in virtually every legal specialty. With 13 offices across the globe and with an attorney base of over nearly 800 individuals in its DC office alone, Covington & Burling LLP may be a good source for paralegal jobs in Washington DC, particularly for paralegals with some legal experience and a desire to pursue a further subject specialization. Williams & Connolly is another prestigious law firm based in Washington DC. Practice areas range from civil litigation criminal defense and government investigations to Supreme Court and appellate litigation and employment law.

Government agencies, corporations, and insurance groups also produce numerous opportunities for recently graduated paralegals. The District of Columbia is home to the headquarters of major law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and CIA, Congress, the White House, and other government entities and lobbyists, environmental groups, and civil rights groups. These agencies may be a good source for paralegal jobs in Washington DC, particularly for those interested in constitutional law, government contracts law, and politics. Additional paralegal jobs can be found in corporations operating throughout Washington DC.

LinkedIn is a good research resource where you can search on geography (Washington DC or city-level) for “paralegal” to find networking opportunities and also companies most associated with users identifying as paralegals; companies and government agencies in Washington DC with the most LinkedIn users as paralegals include:

  • Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Covington & Burling LLP
  • Deloitte
  • US Army
  • US Department of Justice
  • US Department of State
  • US House of Representatives
  • United States Attorneys’ Offices

For more information about paralegal careers, take a look at our careers page.

Washington DC Paralegal Salary Information

Projected Job Growth

17.6%

Paralegals in Washington DC from 2018-20282

In May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 5,260 paralegals and legal assistants employed in the District of Columbia.3 As private law firms, corporations, and other paralegal employers seek to minimize the expense of providing legal services, paralegal employment is expected to increase as certain tasks previously allocated to attorneys shift to paralegal support staff. Projections Central has estimated a positive growth for paralegal jobs in Washington DC of 17.6% from 2018 to 2028, higher than the nationwide job growth rate of 12% during the same time period.2

The average paralegal salary in Washington DC was reported at $83,380 in 2020, considerably higher than the national average paralegal salary of $56,610.3 The Washington DC metropolitan area also hosts one of the densest concentration levels of paralegals, with one of the highest employment levels, and reports among the highest average paralegal salaries in the US.4 This high average wage likely reflects the high cost of living in DC as well as the prominence of the paralegal field within the region. In addition, the already high wage can be expected to rise as paralegals adopt a more expansive role in the legal sphere. Overall, the national expansion of the paralegal field suggests very positive employment and compensation trends within Washington DC, particularly for well-qualified applicants. Paralegals who pursue paralegal education, are certified, and have real-world experience may be better positioned for higher salaries. Estimates are based on national data, not school-specific information; data accessed in January 2022.

Washington DC Paralegal Salary Information

Metro AreaNumber Employed4Average Annual Salary4
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV12,760$70,700

Paralegal Resources

Paralegal Associations in Washington DC

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.

  • DC Bar: Dedicated to improving the legal system and supporting legal professionals in DC through educational events, networking opportunities, and job postings.
  • National Capital Area Paralegal Association (NCAPA): Serves legal support professionals across the Washington DC metropolitan area, offering continuing education, networking, and pro bono opportunities.

Additional Resources

References:
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