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Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Dothan AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several 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 decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Dothan AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Dothan AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Dothan AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent 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 School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Dothan AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Dothan AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Dothan AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.