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Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Sitka AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most 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 significant aspects to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Sitka AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Sitka AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Sitka AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within the Sitka AK area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Sitka AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Sitka 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 choose makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.