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Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Clanton AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Clanton AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Clanton AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Clanton AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering 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 substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Clanton AL area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Clanton AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Clanton AL, make sure 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 offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.