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Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Oxford AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Oxford AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Oxford AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Oxford AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Oxford AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Oxford AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Oxford AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.