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What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs

Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Harvest AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.

Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Harvest AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.

What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Harvest AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.

Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Harvest AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.

Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Harvest AL region.

What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Harvest AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Harvest 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 choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

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