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What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Bethel AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization 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 focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Bethel AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick 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 several Bethel AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Bethel AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Bethel AK area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help offset some of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Bethel AK. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Bethel AK, 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 makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.