How to Become a Paralegal in Texas

Download This Article as a PDF
Loading ...
Image of Texas with person becoming a paralegal

Thanks to its bustling urban hubs, robust economy, and thriving industries that span from energy to technology, Texas stands out as an ideal destination for paralegals pursuing a rewarding career path.

Whether you’re preparing to launch your career or seeking to advance your skills, we’ll cover everything you need to know about becoming a paralegal in Texas. Read on as we explore the educational pathways, certification opportunities, salary prospects, and resources for professional growth.

The role of paralegals in Texas

Before delving into the journey to become a paralegal in Texas, it’s important to highlight the integral role these legal professionals play. According to The State Bar of Texas, a paralegal is an individual qualified through a combination of education, training, or experience, who assists attorneys in performing substantive legal work under their supervision. This encompasses a range of tasks, from conducting client and witness interviews to drafting legal documents and undertaking legal research.

In Texas, there aren’t any specific educational requirements to become a paralegal. This means that aspiring professionals can choose from a number of pathways. As they consider their options, prospective students should evaluate factors like tuition, program duration, and curriculum to determine the best fit for their unique needs and aspirations.

While formal education lays a solid foundation, gaining practical experience through internships is equally important for becoming a paralegal in Texas. This hands-on experience not only delivers a deeper understanding of the legal landscape but also helps students grow their network and provides an invaluable glimpse into a paralegal’s day-to-day responsibilities.

Education and training for paralegals in Texas

paralegal certification

Texas offers a variety of paralegal programs that cater to different career goals and levels of specialization. Common educational routes to becoming a paralegal in the state include:

  • Associate degrees. These programs typically take two years to complete and can be found primarily at community colleges, along with some four-year institutions.
  • Bachelor’s degrees. While less common, some colleges and universities offer four-year degrees with a major or minor in paralegal studies. Alternatively, individuals may pursue a bachelor’s degree in any related field, such as business, pre-law, or social science.
  • Certificate programs. Geared toward individuals who already hold an associate or bachelor’s degree, certificate programs in paralegal studies offer specialized training to boost skills and enhance job opportunities. This pathway is the quickest, usually completed in a year or less.
  • Master’s degree programs. This is ideal for those aiming for advanced expertise. Pursuing a master’s degree in legal studies can provide specialized knowledge and unlock opportunities for senior positions, elevating one’s earning potential.

As you evaluate the right fit for you, it’s advisable to choose an American Bar Association (ABA)-approved paralegal education program. This ensures a high standard of education and curriculum quality. There are 14 approved programs in Texas, including Texas State University, Austin Community College, Collin College, and Lamar State College. 

Certification options for paralegals in Texas

Although not required, obtaining a paralegal certification can significantly enhance career prospects and demonstrate further proficiency in the field. Certification signifies a high level of dedication to professional development, which can lead to increased job opportunities and even heightened earning potential.

So, how do you become a certified paralegal in Texas? In short, paralegals must take an examination administered at the national level by organizations like the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). In addition to unique examination formats, both organizations also have specific educational and experience requirements.

Alternatively, paralegals can obtain certification through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, which is the only governing board authorized by the Texas Supreme Court and the State Bar of Texas to certify paralegals in eight legal specialty areas. These include:

  • Bankruptcy 
  • Civil trial
  • Criminal
  • Estate planning and probate
  • Family
  • Oil, gas, and mineral
  • Personal injury trial
  • Real estate

To become Board Certified in a specialty area, a paralegal must have a minimum of five years of experience as a paralegal (three in Texas); currently work under the supervision of a licensed attorney doing business in Texas; have at least half of their paralegal duties concentrated in specialty areas; and attended continuing education seminars regularly to keep legal training up to date.

They must also have successfully completed one of the following education requirements:

  • NALA certification
  • Baccalaureate or higher degree
  • ABA-approved paralegal program
  • Paralegal program consisting of a minimum of 60 semester credit hours (18 hours must be substantive legal courses)
  • Paralegal program consisting of a minimum of 18 semester credit hours (18 hours must be substantive legal courses, in addition to a minimum of 45 semester credit hours of general college curriculum courses)
  • Two additional years of actual paralegal experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney
  • Pass a four-hour written examination

Currently, only about 400 paralegals have earned The Texas Board of Legal Specialization certification—making it an incredibly powerful way to stand out among prospective employers.

Salary and career outlook for paralegals in Texas

Graduation caps and dollar bills indicating first year lawyer salary

Texas is the fourth largest employer of paralegals and legal assistants. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24,600 paralegals are employed in the state and earn a median annual salary of $59,970. A number of factors influence salary levels, including experience, law specialty, company size, and geographic location. For instance, paralegals in metropolitan areas like Dallas or Houston tend to have some of the highest annual mean wages in the state. 

Texas also boasts strong job prospects and career growth opportunities. Aspiring paralegals will find a range of career paths in the state. For instance, they can work with large firms like Haynes Boone, Vinson & Elkins, or Norton Rose Fulbright LLP. Texas is the headquarters of 55 Fortune 400 companies, which means plenty of opportunities with companies like Exxon Mobil, McKesson, and AT&T.  

Resources and associations for Texas paralegals 

Texas is home to dozens of paralegal associations that provide legal professionals with the resources and tools needed to develop their careers. These include the Dallas Area Paralegal Association, Fort Worth Paralegal Association, and San Antonio Paralegal Association—to name a few. These associations offer a myriad of benefits, including invaluable education opportunities and access to exclusive resources like job boards.

Organizations such as the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division and the Texas Association of Legal Professionals also provide networking opportunities, education resources, and updates on industry trends. Engaging with these associations supports professional growth and promotes collaboration within the legal community.

Final thoughts on how to become a paralegal in Texas

For paralegals looking to launch their careers in a thriving legal landscape, Texas offers a wealth of opportunities. Aspiring paralegals can embark on a highly fulfilling career journey by thoroughly researching and choosing the right educational pathway, pursuing paralegal certification, and tapping into the wide range of available resources.

If you’re applying to become a paralegal, make sure to check out our resources designed to help you get hired, such as how to write a legal cover letter, resume tips and tricks and 10 paralegal interview questions.

The wait is over…gain an edge with the latest report.

Get the Report