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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 options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Gilbert AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Gilbert AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 Gilbert AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Gilbert AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Gilbert AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Gilbert AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Gilbert AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.