If you think that a career as a paralegal could be a good fit for you as a Rhode Island resident, then there are some things that you are advised to think about before you take any big steps. First of all, you should really consider your reasons for wanting to become a paralegal. If you are planning on going into the field simply because of the higher than average salaries, the prestige, or the (usually) excellent job benefits, then you are not likely to be very happy in the long run.

While these are all certainly perks of the job, they are not things to build a career on. You should become a paralegal because you love the work, enjoy doing it, and have a real interest in law and using your knowledge to help others.

If you do truly love what you’re doing, then this will carry you through the hard parts of the job—and there certainly are plenty of those. Prospective paralegals will generally spend anywhere from six months to four years in school, training for their professions.

After that, they have to work long hours, full of hard work, and they also have to devote themselves to being lifelong learners. This is necessary for keeping up with the latest developments and advancements in the field.

Furthermore, the best paralegals generally possess certain traits. These include things like being ethical, honest, organized, a good communicator, capable of working both independently and with others, and being analytical. An honest assessment of yourself and your skills can really help you to determine whether or not you are likely to have long term success as a paralegal in today’s world.

Don’t feel like you have to have all of these traits naturally, but you should at least be willing to work on those areas in which you are weak.

If you, after reading all of this, still feel like you are cut out to be a paralegal, then you might actually stand a chance at this profession. Your next step, then, would be to decide how you want to go about earning your education, as there are many different options.

Some paralegals, for example, will receive only an associate’s degree in the field, a simple and usually very affordable process that can be completed in about two years on average.

Those who are worried about standing out above the competition in this incredibly fierce job market will often choose to earn a bachelor’s degree. Such programs take the average person around four years to complete, but they really are well worth the extra time.

Paralegals with bachelor’s degrees tend to make more money from the start, to have an easier time finding jobs, and to advance in the field much more quickly than their peers who have only associate’s degrees. So, this is definitely something to consider. Keep in mind, too, that you can always transfer associate’s degree credits to a bachelor’s degree program, which will allow you to complete it more quickly.

For those who are coming to the field later in life and who have already earned an undergraduate degree in another area, certification programs are a simple way to work in the field without having to start over from scratch. They can usually be completed in as little as six months to a year.

While many employers do prefer an actual degree in the field, there are also some who enjoy hiring professionals from diverse academic backgrounds, especially if those backgrounds taught them skills that are useful in the profession.

No matter which educational path you choose, you will want to make sure that your school is fully accredited, first and foremost. Secondly, you will need to ensure that your program has been approved by the American Bar Association.

If it has not, any degree or certificate that you receive will not be of actual use to you in the field.

Obviously, you have a lot to think about and a lot of planning to do as you work toward your goal of becoming a paralegal. Know, though, that your goal is possible and achievable with some effort on your part.