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Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Fairfield AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to think about as well, for instance 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 investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Fairfield 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 offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Fairfield AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Fairfield AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build 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 want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Fairfield AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Fairfield AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Fairfield AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.