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Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Casa Grande AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly 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 searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Casa Grande AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Casa Grande AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Casa Grande AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Casa Grande AZ area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Casa Grande AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Casa Grande AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.