The Pennsylvania Paralegal’s Career Plan

Paralegal Education in Pennsylvania

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Flag of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The paralegal profession in Pennsylvania is one of the largest in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this state is currently home to about 9,350 paralegals, the majority of whom are located in Pennsylvania’s metropolitan areas, especially in Pittsburg and Harrisburg-Carlisle. As the trend towards hiring paralegals for work traditionally performed by lawyers continues, paraprofessional jobs in the US are expected to increase by over 70,000 in the next 6 years.

The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes states that paralegals cannot provide legal advice or other legal services unless supervised by a licensed attorney, and cannot mislead others into believing that they can. The state of Pennsylvania does not currently have certification or registration requirements; however, the Keystone Alliance of Paralegal Associations provides a certification program that allows qualified legal assistants to carry the Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal Credential (Pa.C.P.) title.

Aspiring paralegals in the state of Pennsylvania can start their careers either in a Paralegal Studies program at a college or university, or directly in the workforce with adequate training on the job. When applying for jobs, however, paralegals who have received a formal education are often given preference, so it’s a good idea to pursue an education in paralegal studies if possible. For those already working as legal assistants, some employers may assist in the pursuit of a formal certification or degree. If you would like to earn an official certification title, consider asking your employer about educational opportunities.

Paralegals attain their certificate when they pass one of the four national approved certification exams. An official paralegal organization, such as Pennsylvania’s Keystone Alliance or one of its member organizations such as the Central Pennsylvania Association is also worth joining, especially for legal assistants who are just starting out. These groups can provide a valuable professional network, exclusive employment opportunities and continuing education. Remember, these organizations can be great resources for paralegal students as well.

Salaries

The average salary of paralegals in Pennsylvania is currently about $41,000. The largest employer of paralegals in the state is private attorneys’ offices, although banks, hospitals and some branches of government provide many jobs as well.

In USD as of Feb 28, 2013 (source: indeed.com)25k50k75k
Paralegal in Pennsylvania $41,000
 

Spotlight School

Educational Establishments

J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building

J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

Aspiring paralegal students may notice that no single authority regulates paralegal certificates or licenses in the US. The American Bar Association (ABA), however, serves to provide some oversight of law schools and endorses college law programs that qualify. While an ABA endorsement is voluntary, an approval from them provides extra credibility and many programs seek their approval. As competition in the legal assistant field continues to grow, many employers are starting to require an ABA-endorsed education.

A school’s accreditation status is overseen by the US Department of Education to help ensure the legitimacy of a college or university, and is important to both students who seek an ethical education and employers who hire them upon graduation. While some law firms and other employers may not have any education requirements at all, attending a school that is both accredited by the Department of Education and endorsed by the ABA is sure to provide the best paralegal education possible.

Pennsylvania currently has 14 schools with paralegal programs that are endorsed by the American Bar Association, including four universities:

Clarion University of Pennsylvania is located in Clarion where it offers an Associate of Science degree through its Paralegal Studies program. The program takes 62 credit hours to complete and includes 3 credit hours of field experience.

Duquesne University is a private 4-year institution located in Pittsburgh that offers a post-baccalaureate certificate through its Paralegal Studies program. Students can go through the program part-time in the evenings, which takes 9 months to complete, or take the accelerated 3 month track. Internships are encouraged, but not mandatory.

Gannon University is a private Catholic university located in Erie that offers a Legal Studies program. Students who take this program may earn an Associate of Arts degree, a Bachelor’s degree or a certificate.

Villanova University is a private 4-year Catholic university that offers a post-baccalaureate certification through its Paralegal Studies program. It offers both a part-time and full-time learning program.

These 2-year institutions also offer paralegal and legal studies programs, which students may take to earn certificates or associate degrees, if offered. Program length can vary from 20-60 credit hours to complete:

Firms of Interest

Pennsylvania is home to dozens of prestigious law firms that employ paralegals. Below are just a few of these firms:

Archer & Greiner PC (with offices in New Jersey)
One Liberty Place 32nd Floor
1650 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-963-3300
Fax: 215-963-9999

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC (with offices nation-wide)
409 North Second Street, Suite 500
Harrisburg, PA 17101-1357
Phone: 717-237-4800
Fax: 717-233-0852

Cohen Placitella Roth PC (with 2nd office in New Jersey)
Two Commerce Square
2001 Market Street, Suite 2900
Philadelphia, PA. 19103
Phone: 215-567-3500
Fax: 215-567-6019

Other Resources for Paralegals

Paralegal Schools in Pennsylvania

Campus: Reading, PA

Start your future now!

With their convenient location right outside of Reading, PA, and a multitude of courses and programs, Berks Technical Institute provides training that results in Associate in Specialized Technology degrees, Associate in Specialized Business degrees, Certificates of Completion and diplomas in growing fields. Berks Technical Institute makes it easy to find the right career fit for you.

Programs:

  • Criminal Justice - Associate in Specialized Business
  • Paralegal - Associate in Specialized Business

Campus: Online

  • Northcentral University was founded in 1996 to provide working professionals around the world with unprecedented access to richly engaging, professionally relevant, and academically-rigorous education from a U.S. university.
  • As a regionally accredited, private, online and graduate-focused university, NCU offers doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in business, technology management, education, and psychology, as well as doctoral and master’s degrees in marriage and family therapy.

Programs:

  • Doctor of Criminal Justice - Policing
  • Doctor of Criminal Justice - White Collar Crime
  • Master of Legal Studies

A new career is closer than you think!

McCann School of Business & Technology has a history of helping students succeed through hands-on education and career training. Their faculty and staff work to ensure that when you’ve completed your program, you’re truly ready to pursue your career.

Programs:

  • Criminal Justice - Associate in Specialized Business

Campus: Online

Since 1977, Keiser University has maintained a practical, hands-on approach to career-focused education to help our students achieve their personal and professional goals.  Our student-centered approach remains at the foundation of the Keiser University mission and continues to attract students who prefer a more personal learning experience.

Programs:

  • Master of Arts in Homeland Security