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Continuing Education Programs

Common Questions about USC's Paralegal Certificate

Look inside the most successful law firms and you'll find skilled, credentialed, capable paralegal professionals. Find the answers to determine if this training is right for you.


  • A 4-year undergraduate degree is required and/or 4 years of professional experience
  • Basic computer and word-processing skills
  • Access to the internet with high speed connection
  • An updated resume

We understand that students have many choices in paralegal education. That is one of the strengths of the profession. The type of program chosen by each student usually depends on several factors, including:

  • Prior Educational Experience - Students who already possess a college degree are not likely to attend a two or four year paralegal program.
  • Prior Life Experience - Many paralegal certificate students have valuable real-world experience, but lack the credentials to be competitive for job opportunities.
  • Motivation - Students who take certificate programs must be motivated, since they are expected to gain knowledge and skills in a relatively short period of time.
  • Compensation - Graduates of certificate programs are better compensated than graduates of associate or bachelor degree programs.

Attorneys want to hire paralegals that can efficiently and accurately perform specific law related tasks. They want, and are willing to pay for, paralegals that possess skills which make them and their firm more productive. As a general rule, attorneys don't care about the geometry, psychology, and other general study courses an employee has taken. They care about whether the employee can maintain a client file, conduct legal research, draft legal documents, and perform other relevant tasks. Oral and communication skills are essential  Paralegal certificate programs offer training in the specific skills attorneys are looking for in their paralegal employees.

USC’s Paralegal Certificate Program is not ABA approved, nor are paralegal programs at most other major universities. Typically, ABA approved programs require approximately 2 years to complete because of the hourly requirements imposed by the ABA. Approximately 250 out of 1,200 paralegal programs nationwide are ABA approved and the majority are offered by smaller community colleges and technical schools for candidates with little college or work experience. The ABA approved programs in South Carolina are offered at Central Carolina Technical College, Florence-Darlington Technical College, Greenville Technical College, Horry-Georgetown Technical College, Midlands Technical College, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, South University, Technical College of the Lowcountry, and Trident Technical College. 

The ABA does not formally “accredit” any paralegal program, but for a fee, the organization “approves” programs that meet certain standards. Most paralegal programs choose not to seek ABA “approval” because ABA “approval” is not a primary factor in most law firms’ decision to hire a paralegal. The reputation of the institution attended by the paralegal is often much more important. The University of South Carolina is the state’s flagship institution. Our program requires a 4-year undergraduate degree and/or 4 years of professional experience prior to admission. 

The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offer (for a price) voluntary examinations. Majority of paralegals have chosen not to take either exam. NALA offers the CLA Examination, and NFPA offers the PACE Examination. Please note that the above organizations frequently alter their exams' requirements. Contact each association for the most current requirements to sit for those examinations. 

We recommend non-native English speakers have a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score of at least 250 on the computer-based exam or 100 on the internet-based exam. These scores are recommended, but not required. 

Students must earn a minimum of 70% in each course module. Class projects and exams will be administered. Participants must achieve a score of 75% or better in the program to earn the USC Paralegal Certificate.      

If you encounter a life event that might interrupt your participation in the USC Paralegal Certificate Program, please discuss the matter immediately with a student advisor. In the past, we have been able to work with students to arrange for future participation in the program with no extra charge.  

The majority of financial aid programs such as the Pell Grant, Stafford Loan, or the HOPE or LIFE Scholarships are only available to students attending credit courses which lead to a degree or other academic credential. Since USC’s paralegal certificate program is not credit-based, we are unable to process these traditional forms of financial aid.  

No, the FASFA is used only for degree programs. 

Still have questions?

Please call us at 803-777-4954 or email

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