If you are interested in working as a paralegal in the beautiful state of Colorado, then you have to understand that this isn’t just some job you can waltz in and apply for without any preparation. Paralegals are serious legal professionals, not just mere secretaries or receptionists as a lot of people mistakenly believe. They have to know the legal profession inside and out, and they have to be capable of performing many serious duties. The only way to be able to perform these duties and to get hired as a paralegal is to receive schooling in the field.

Your schooling might take the form of an associate’s degree, as it does for the majority of professionals in the field. When this is the case, you can expect to earn your degree in about two years, on average. Your degree will likely come from a community college or a trade or technical school, though many traditional colleges and universities are now offering these programs. However, attending the former option is usually much more affordable than attending a traditional school. Only you can decide, however, which option is truly the best fit for you—there are pros and cons to go along with each choice.

Instead of an associate’s degree, you may choose to earn a certification in the field. It is important to note that only those who already hold bachelor’s degrees, even if they are not in a related field, can obtain certifications. Usually, this option is preferred by those who went to school for something else and then later decided that they would like to work as a paralegal. Since these individuals already have experience in school, they are only required to complete the core paralegal components, which takes the average person anywhere from six months to a year.

When you have completed your education, your next step may be to start applying for jobs or, if you’d like to start building up an impressive resume first, to start looking for an internship or some other type of experiential learning opportunities. Internships can be paid or unpaid. Some are even taken for school credit. The best ones will have you do real work in the field, and will be quite similar to an actual job. They may vary in length significantly from one internship to the next, but they are an excellent way to start building your resume and to make important, lasting connections that could later lead to offers of employment. Even if you don’t get an employment offer from the place where you complete your internship, later on down the road, a connection you made could come in handy. At the very least, you should be able to get an excellent letter of recommendation and perhaps even several references out of your experience.

When the time comes, applying for jobs is incredibly simple. The best way to land a job, or at least a job interview, is through connections you have made. If you don’t have any solid connections, however, you can search online or even browse the local newspaper for available positions. Most will have you submit your resume and a cover letter. Make sure that these shine. They should be properly formatted and should highlight your experience and skills. The resume and cover letter will determine if you will get an interview, so they need to really stand out. The interview is your time to shine, and if you do a good enough job, you can land the career you’ve been preparing for all of this time.