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Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Sturgis SD area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal 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 may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Sturgis SD law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Sturgis SD law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Sturgis SD legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering 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 probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with South Dakota legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in South Dakota or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Sturgis SD area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Sturgis SD. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Sturgis SD, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.