How to Become a Paralegal in North Carolina
Paralegals serve an essential but often unsung role in the legal system. As the magicians behind the curtain, they support the work of lawyers and other legal professionals by drafting legal documents, maintaining legal files, libraries and databases, and doing in-depth research into local, state and federal laws. The demand for paralegals in North Carolina is higher than in all but a few other states, which makes this an ideal place to begin a new career.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in North Carolina
Some people begin their professional lives as a paralegal and others enter the field as second careers. No matter which position you are in, these are the steps that should be followed:
Explore the Field
Find out as much as you can about life as a paralegal to determine if this a career path you are truly committed to.
Get an Education
The most successful paralegals have formal training in paralegal studies through either a certification or degree program.
Pass the Exam
In order to qualify as a certified paralegal in the North Carolina, candidates must pass a 150-point examination.
Paralegal Education Requirements in North Carolina
Technically, the state of North Carolina does not set any formal requirements for paralegal education. However, the state has established a certification program. And while it is not mandatory to have certification, it is a huge professional asset. As part of the certification process, paralegals must complete a certification program, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from an institution approved by the American Bar Association or by the state.
Earning Paralegal Licensure in North Carolina
A license is not required to begin working as a paralegal in North Carolina, but the state’s certification program functions in much the same way and is highly recommended for ambitious professionals. After meeting one of the education requirements outlined above, aspiring paralegals must pass a comprehensive examination covering multiple areas of the law. The exam is administered twice a year and requires your paying a fee.
Professional certification is available through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Association of Paralegal Associations (NAFP), which shows employers how dedicated you are to the profession. These voluntary certifications require passing an exam to prove your expertise.
Paralegal Salary in North Carolina
Paralegals in North Carolina earn a median annual salary that is on par with the national average of $49,500. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that North Carolina paralegals earn a mean annual wage of $47,910, with the highest 10 percent in the field earning over $71,900 yearly.
Salaries generally depend upon years of experience in the field, your education level and location, with cities usually paying higher salaries. For example, Raleigh paralegals earned a healthy mean annual wage of $64,140, while Charlotte paralegals earned $48,460 according to the BLS.
Paralegal Career Opportunities in North Carolina
The demand for paralegals in North Carolina has historically been strong, with no signs of slowing down. The BLS estimates there are around 8,920 paralegals currently working in the state, a figure that is significantly larger than the number in other states. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the paralegal profession as a whole will grow by 15 percent through 2026, faster than average for all other professions.
There are paralegals working in almost every law firm in the state, as well as in corporations that are large enough to have an in-house legal department. They also work for government agencies and in not-for-profit settings.
Final Steps for Success as a Paralegal
The demand for paralegals in North Carolina may be high, but the competition for the top jobs is high as well. Professionals who are eager to advance are advised to make professional development and continuing education a priority.
Picking up new credentials, networking with other legal professionals and contributing to the field on both a state and national level are all smart strategies. National organizations like the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Association of Paralegal Associations (NAFP) both have a lot of resources to offer, including specialized certification programs. The state and national Bar Association also offer a number of opportunities for enhancing paralegal credentials.
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