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What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs

Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Valley AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.

Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable organization 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 targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Valley AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.

What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Valley AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.

Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Valley AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask 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 substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.

Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire 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 want to first look at those colleges that are within the Valley AL region.

What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Valley AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Valley AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.

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