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Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Fairbanks AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly 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 searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education 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 Fairbanks AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including 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 Fairbanks AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Fairbanks AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Fairbanks AK area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Fairbanks AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Fairbanks AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.