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Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Orange Beach AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select 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 learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Orange Beach AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out 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 rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Orange Beach AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Orange Beach AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain 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 consider those colleges that are within the Orange Beach AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Orange Beach AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Orange Beach AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.