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What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Prichard AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Prichard AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Prichard AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Prichard AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire 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 wish to first consider those schools that are within the Prichard AL region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Prichard AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Prichard AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.