|Paralegal Certificate||Paralegal Studies||Paralegal Courses|
|Paralegal Degree||Paralegal Schools|
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Tuscaloosa AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program 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 can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Tuscaloosa AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 some Tuscaloosa AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear 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 Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Tuscaloosa AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Tuscaloosa AL region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Tuscaloosa AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Tuscaloosa AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.