How to Become a Paralegal in South Carolina
If you are interested in pursuing a career in the law but don’t want to invest the time and money necessary to complete law school, becoming a paralegal is a perfect option. Paralegals assist lawyers and other legal professionals by drafting legal documents, conducting careful legal research into specific topics, and maintaining files and databases of legal information. The state of South Carolina makes it relatively easy to become a paralegal, and demand for these professionals is projected to be high into the near future.
Steps to Become a Paralegal in South Carolina
Whether this is your first professional job, or a second career, you will want to follow several steps before you begin working as a paralegal.
Learn about the Reality of the Job
Some people thrive as paralegals and others don’t. Learn what these professionals do on a daily basis, and speak directly to a practicing paralegal if possible. That way you know exactly what you’re getting into before you begin your career journey.
Build Up Your Credentials
The competition for paralegal jobs in South Carolina can be intense. Stand out from the pack by earning a certificate or degree in paralegal studies, and develop your professional credentials as much as you can early in your career.
Think about the Long Term
There are paralegal jobs located all over the state and in a variety of different environments. Figure out what you want from your career over the long term, and angle your career trajectory in that direction from the start.
Paralegal Education Requirements in South Carolina
The state of South Carolina has not established any formal educational requirements for paralegals. Technically, anyone can begin working in this role regardless of their credentials. However, given the sensitive and technical nature of the work, employers typically only want to hire candidates who have formal education and training in paralegal studies. That is available through certification programs, or by earning an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree in paralegal studies.
Earning Paralegal Licensure in South Carolina
It is not necessary to be licensed to work as a paralegal in South Carolina and there are no state regulations for the paralegal industry. This sounds great but it also means that ambitious paralegals should take steps to stand out from the crowd of other paralegal job seekers. In general, the more education and experience a candidate has, the more they will attract the attention of employers.
Fortunately, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers two professional credentials to help you achieve this. You’ll need to pay a fee and take a rigorous exam to make sure you thoroughly know your subject matter, but once you pass, you’ll have earned the respected credential the agency offers. You’ll also need to complete continuing education units to keep your certification valid and current.
Paralegal Salary in South Carolina
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites $49,500 as the national median annual salary for paralegals, with the highest 10 percent in the profession earning $80,260 or more. Generally, earning more depends upon location, years of experience and education, so you can see that earning a degree has positive outcomes.
The BLS says paralegals in South Carolina earned a mean annual wage of $43,860. Paralegals working in metropolitan areas such as Charleston earned $48,190 annually.
Paralegal Career Opportunities in South Carolina
Data collected by the BLS estimates that there are 5,340 paralegals employed in South Carolina. The bureau says that the demand for paralegals nationwide will grow by 15 percent through 2026, with 41,800 new paralegals being needed.
In South Carolina specifically, the demand is expected to grow by 8.4 percent, lower than the national average. Most paralegals work for law firms, large corporations that have an in-house legal department and government agencies.
Final Steps for Success as a Paralegal
Getting your first paralegal job is a major accomplishment. In order to continue to be successful, however, paralegals will need to seek out continuing education and professional development opportunities. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) both offer a wealth of resources in addition to well-respected certification programs.
The South Carolina state and national Bar Associations can also be an asset. The most reliable way to advance your career is to pick up new skills and specialties, attend conferences and meetings and network with other paralegal professionals.
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