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Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Alexander City AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Alexander City AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Alexander City AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Alexander City AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Alexander City AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Alexander City AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Alexander City AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.