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What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs

Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Bessemer AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.

Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive 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 receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Bessemer AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.

What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Bessemer AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.

Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Bessemer AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.

Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Bessemer AL region.

How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Bessemer AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Bessemer AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.

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