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What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Gateway AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can 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 also. Numerous Gateway AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Gateway AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Gateway AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Gateway AK area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Gateway AK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Gateway AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.