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What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs

Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Russellville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.

Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Russellville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.

What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Russellville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.

Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Russellville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.

Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Russellville AL region.

What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible 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 Russellville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Russellville AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

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