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Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Anniston AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Anniston AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Anniston AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Anniston AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish 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 justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Anniston AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Anniston AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Anniston 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 offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.