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Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Chelsea AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate 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 covered, there are other critical factors to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Chelsea AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking 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 determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Chelsea AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Chelsea AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Chelsea AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Chelsea AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Chelsea AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.