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Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Sylacauga AL area, as well as trade and vocational 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 certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin 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 also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected 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 education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Sylacauga AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 contact some Sylacauga AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Sylacauga AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. 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 sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Sylacauga AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Sylacauga AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Sylacauga AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.