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Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Pell City AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to think about as well, including 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 thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Pell City AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Pell City AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Pell City AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid 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 students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Pell City AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. 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 also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Pell City AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Pell City AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.