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Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the El Mirage AZ area, as well as 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 degree and certificate 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 previously covered, there are other important issues to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation 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 properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous El Mirage AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 El Mirage AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the El Mirage AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the El Mirage AZ region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in El Mirage AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near El Mirage AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.