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Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Muscle Shoals AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential 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 crucial factors to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected 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 education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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. Numerous Muscle Shoals AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Muscle Shoals AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Muscle Shoals AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Muscle Shoals AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Muscle Shoals AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Muscle Shoals AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.