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Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Meadowbrook AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Meadowbrook AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Meadowbrook AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Meadowbrook AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary 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 choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Meadowbrook AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Meadowbrook AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Meadowbrook AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.