Paralegals are a career field that are constantly in demand due to the fast paced environment, as well as the amount of hard work and determination required to succeed. Compared to many other career fields, paralegals are always in demand and are at a lower risk of having jobs outsourced or downsized. Additionally, paralegal work often retains value even when other careers decline during economic recessions. Due to these different benefits, pursuing a paralegal certification is an excellent, long term career option.
Within North Carolina specifically, there is an increasing number of career opportunities available. The North Carolina State Bar has even created a certification plan for paralegal certification, which includes meeting a number of educational standards that place any paralegal on the path to success.
Paralegal Certification and Requirements
Within the state of North Carolina, there is not a required certification necessary to become a paralegal. However, there has been a voluntary state certification program put into place by the North Carolina State Bar. This voluntary program is recognized as the Plan for Certification of Paralegals, and is often pursued by those looking to become a paralegal in North Carolina. While other paralegal programs may be offered at different institutions throughout the state, these programs may not meet or exceed the prerequisites of the paralegal certification examination.
To be classified as a paralegal according to the standards of the North Carolina State Bar, certification exams must be passed and specified standards have to be met. This is in addition to the needed formal or traditional paralegal education. This formal training can come in different forms, including: an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree in paralegal studies; a college-level degree in another field supplemented with a post-baccalaureate paralegal studies certificate; or a juris doctorate degree from an accredited law school. After one of these different formal education programs has been completed, a potential paralegal is eligible to sit for the North Carolina Certified Paralegal Exam. Once completed and passed, the applicant will be able to title themselves under one of several approved titles.
Once a paralegal has completed their certification process, there will be continued education required each year to maintain good standing of their paralegal certification.
The training required for a paralegal varies based on the state requirements, and although North Carolina does not have a specific requirement or certification in order to work as a paralegal, the North Carolina State Bar has created a set of educational requirements. This program is optional, but engaging in this process provides a level of consistent teachings that prepare any paralegal for the future. Additionally, the American Bar Association has approved seven of these programs in North Carolina as of July 2015.
In North Carolina there are several institutions that offer programs specifically catered to paralegal students. One very well known educational institution is Duke University. Well known as an institution with high standards and higher expectations, Duke University’s class of 2014 from the School of Law had a median LSAT score of 170 and a median GPA of 3.75. Although Duke University is one of the most iconic institutions in North Carolina, there are a number of community colleges, technical colleges and standard four year colleges that offer paralegal degree programs. Any potential school program should be researched and understood prior to applying, due to the fact that different programs may not offer the same level of educational standards.
Paralegal Job Outlook
The paralegal career path is predicted to be one of the quickest growing occupations nationally, due in large part to cost reduction efforts aimed at legal services. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting that from 2012 to 2022, there will be an estimated 17% growth in employment. Additionally, the job growth for paralegals in North Carolina is expected to exceed that national rate, with projections as high as 24.5% by 2020. Although there are already a high number of existing paralegals employed in the state, the fast-paced growth is expected to create a number of new positions.
Paralegal Salary in North Carolina
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled information on paralegals working in North Carolina, and the average salary in 2014 was $44,120. Although this is the median salary, there are potentially higher or lower offerings based on the location of the office. Larger law firms or more urban areas will often have higher wages for paralegals.
Work in the paralegal career path is fast-paced and exciting, and the demand for additional workers will continue to increase as the years move forward. North Carolina has already started putting in place a system of requirements to help any paralegal succeed. Although there is a lot of hard work and education required to become a paralegal, the hard work is well worth the career opportunities.