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Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Laveen AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate 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 already discussed, there are other critical aspects to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Laveen AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, 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 Laveen AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Laveen AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement 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 graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those schools that are within the Laveen AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received 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 books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Laveen AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Laveen AZ, verify 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. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.