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Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Fort Payne AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can 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 most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues 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 considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Fort Payne AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent 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 call several Fort Payne AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Fort Payne AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial 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? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish 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 first look at those colleges that are within the Fort Payne AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Fort Payne AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Fort Payne AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.