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What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Anchorage AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable organization 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 help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Anchorage AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying 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 determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Anchorage AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Anchorage AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely 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 assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Anchorage AK area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add 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 be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Anchorage AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Anchorage AK, 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 select offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.