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Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Glendale AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several 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 decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets 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 show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Glendale AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Glendale AZ law practices 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 among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Glendale AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Glendale AZ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Glendale AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Glendale AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.