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Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs

Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Calera AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. 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 critical factors to consider as well, 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 considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.

Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Calera AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.

What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good 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 contact a few Calera AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.

Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Calera AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.

Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Calera AL region.

How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Calera AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Calera AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.

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