Curious about how to become a paralegal in South Carolina? If you’re thinking about moving into the paralegal profession, it’s important that you understand the South Carolina paralegal requirements so you can get the education and experience that you need in order to move forward with your career. Working as a paralegal in South Carolina can help you move forward with your career in the legal field. Whether you’re looking at working as a paralegal for a long-term career or you want to eventually go to law school, finishing your paralegal education can help you get a deeper understanding of the law and how you can help clients get the justice they deserve.
To answer the question of how to become a paralegal in South Carolina, it’s important that you know that the state does not dictate any specific amount of training or education for paralegals. Since South Carolina paralegal requirements are not mandated by the state, budding paralegals need to work to make themselves competitive with other professionals.
Since there aren’t paralegal requirements in South Carolina, law firms may look for a combination of experience and education when deciding whether to hire a paralegal. Many people who are learning more about the paralegal requirements in South Carolina choose to work at a law firm on a part-time basis or through an internship program as they complete their education, allowing them to become competitive with others who are going through their paralegal education.
Here, we’ll explore everything that you need to know about paralegal certification in South Carolina, including the type of educational program you’ll need to complete, certifications that can help you move forward with your career, and what you need to know about average salaries and the current job outlook for paralegals in South Carolina.
While there are many high-quality paralegal programs in South Carolina, there is no educational requirement to become a South Carolina paralegal. This means that it’s especially important for students to carefully research the quality of their paralegal education program before committing to taking classes.
While some paralegals learn their craft through on-the-job training, others learn through an online or traditional program. No matter the method of education that you choose to learn how to be a paralegal, you’ll be required to work under the supervision of a qualified attorney.
While education in paralegal studies is not required to work as a paralegal, many employers prefer to hire paralegals who have completed a certificate or degree program. This doesn’t just show a law firm that the employee understands the requirements for the career — it also shows initiative and dedication to their career path. Some law firms may be willing to hire a paralegal who is still working through their educational program.
One of the most important decisions you’ll make as you move forward with your education is whether you want to choose a traditional or online paralegal program in South Carolina. You may also find that hybrid options allow you to take some of your classes in person while taking other classes online. Online paralegal programs in South Carolina can be a good fit for paralegal students who want or need to work while completing their education, or who have other responsibilities (like taking care of kids or elderly family members) that interfere with their ability to attend classes on campus. If you choose to take one of the online ABA-approved paralegal programs in South Carolina, you’ll want to find out whether the program requires you to be online at certain times for classes. Some online programs allow you to complete your coursework at any time that’s convenient for you, while others will require you to be online at certain times.
Some students prefer in-person ABA-approved paralegal programs in South Carolina. While both online and in-person paralegal programs are valid options and can provide a great education, an in-person environment can make it easier for students to ask questions in real-time, and to develop relationships with classmates. Students in in-person paralegal programs may also enjoy taking part in on-campus activities and may find it easier to focus on their coursework when they’re in a classroom instead of on a computer at home.
All paralegal education programs teach students how to pay close attention to the details of their cases. In the paralegal profession, it’s important to carefully review and dissect information, and paralegals need to go into painstaking detail to ensure that their lawyers are getting all the support necessary to fight for their clients in court.
No matter what type of certificate or degree program you choose, you’ll likely go through a number of classes, including:
- Legal ethics
- Legal interviewing
- Legal research
- Legal terminology
- Contract law
- Legal research
- Legal investigation
Within your paralegal education program, you may decide to focus on a specialty area. While choosing a specialty area is not a requirement for becoming a paralegal, doing so may help you get a career within your area of legal interest. Paralegal specialty areas can include:
- Administrative law
- Animal law
- Bankruptcy law
- Criminal law
- Environmental law
- Family law
- International law
- Personal injury law
- Sports law
If you’re currently working and are interested in pursuing a paralegal program, you’ll want to talk with your employer about whether they offer tuition assistance. Many employers are willing to pay for some or all of an employee’s education. These agreements may come with stipulations, such as requiring the employee to work for the company for a certain amount of time after they receive assistance, or may require the employee to maintain a certain grade point average in order to continue receiving assistance. Be sure to talk with your employer about the amount of assistance available. Some employers that offer tuition assistance cover the full cost of tuition, while others are willing to cover a certain dollar amount per semester.
Since there’s no requirement for paralegal certification in South Carolina, it’s technically possible for anyone to practice as a paralegal in the state. That being said, many employers prefer that their paralegals complete a South Carolina paralegal certification program before they’re willing to hire them to assist lawyers at their firm.
The Supreme Court of South Carolina offers South Carolina paralegal certification, but as mentioned, it’s not a requirement to work as a paralegal. The Supreme Court’s program for paralegal certification in South Carolina is completely voluntary. Completing the program is likely to give paralegals a leg up against the competition when applying for jobs. The State Bar administers the program. Successful completion of the program lets future employers know that a paralegal has completed all of the stringent requirements of the state and that the paralegal is fully prepared to assist lawyers at their firm.
While the Supreme Court of South Carolina’s paralegal certificate is one option for the equivalent of a South Carolina paralegal license, it’s not the only option that paralegals in South Carolina have to be taken seriously by future employers.
Other paralegal certification South Carolina online options include:
- The National Association for Legal Support Professionals Certified Professional Paralegal Program: This program requires that students sit for an exam in order to get their certification. Prior to applying for permission to take the exam, students must have at least five years of experience working as a paralegal (legal assistant work also counts toward the five-year experience requirement). Paralegals interested in this certificate also must have a bachelor’s degree, but the degree does not need to be in legal studies. In order to take this exam, students must have graduated from an ABA-approved program.
- The National Association of Legal Assistants Certified Paralegal Credential: This widely-recognized paralegal credential requires applicants to take an exam on federal law. The exam is split into a knowledge section and a skills section. Eligibility to sit for the exam is determined by the applicant’s education and/or experience.
- The American Alliance of Paralegals Certified Paralegal Program: This program does not require students to take an exam in order to become certified. Students must submit their education and experience in order to be considered for the certificate. Candidates must have at least five years of experience in order to be eligible for the certificate.
Many paralegal certification South Carolina online programs allow students to learn fully on their own time, making it easy to get the equivalent to a South Carolina paralegal license without ever walking into a classroom. This can also be an ideal option for paralegals who are interested in working while they’re completing their education. It’s key to remember that many employers want paralegals who have experience, and this can be easier to accomplish if you decide to get your education and work at the same time. Some paralegals are even able to apply to and get hired for a full-time position at the firm where they worked part-time or interned while they were going through their paralegal studies.
Job Market and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for paralegals in the United States is $52,920 per year or $25.44 per hour. The national average expected growth for the paralegal profession in the United States from 2020-2030 is 12%, which is higher than the average growth rate for other jobs. This means that it’s likely that paralegals who are going through school now will not have a problem finding a job in the coming decade. Of course, it’s important to remember that many factors go into getting a job offer, such as education, certification, and work history.
In 2017, the average South Carolina paralegal salary was about $49,000 per year, which is a little bit less than the average national salary. It’s important to remember that the average national salary considers salaries from areas with both high and low costs of living. If you live in one of the many areas of South Carolina with a lower cost of living than other areas of the country, you may find that the average South Carolina paralegal salary is more than enough to make a comfortable living. If you choose to live in an area of South Carolina with a higher cost of living, you may be pleasantly surprised to find a higher average salary for paralegals. Professionals in the paralegal profession in the Charleston area, for example, have an average South Carolina paralegal jobs salary of about $1,000 higher than the average salary for South Carolina as a whole.
You’ll also want to consider how much of your salary will be spent paying back student loans when deciding whether it’s worth it to move forward with a paralegal education as you consider whether searching for South Carolina paralegal jobs is the right fit for your future. If you’re able to take advantage of employer tuition assistance and can finish your paralegal program without hefty student loans, you may have an easier time living the lifestyle that you want on a lower salary.
It’s estimated that the need for paralegal jobs in South Carolina will increase by about 9% between 2014 and 2024. While this number is slightly lower than the expected increase for all paralegal jobs in the United States, it’s still above average when compared to the average increase for all professions in the United States. If you’re currently learning more about paralegal education, or you’re working to complete your paralegal education, it’s likely that it will be simple for you to find South Carolina paralegal jobs when you graduate and/or get your certificate.
If you’re thinking about going into the paralegal field, you’re likely to find that you have many job opportunities for years to come. Working as a paralegal is hard, detail-oriented work that pays off. Working as a paralegal can be a good way to get your foot in the door at a law firm at which you’d eventually like to work as a lawyer one day. Whether you’re interested in going to law school and sitting for the Bar exam one day or you’d rather enjoy a career supporting lawyers in helping clients get justice as a paralegal, earning your paralegal certification, or completing a paralegal education program can help you work toward your long-term career goals.