How to Pick an Accredited Medical Assistant Course near Alabaster Alabama
Now that you have decided to become a part of the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Alabaster AL, it's time to select a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately pick the right one? Most prospective students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important factors also. You may decide to research several online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to finish your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are assessing. And to assist you with that process, we have included several questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are available.
The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The job of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their function is to make sure that the Alabaster AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare centers where they work operate efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the possible functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any task they are qualified to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the options offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Courses
Unlike most other medical professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Alabaster AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally two choices provided for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about one year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs provided at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a practical element involving an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are a good option for students who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good option for Alabama students who continue to work full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be lessened as well. Just remember that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be performed in Alabaster AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of getting your training may be the right option for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent option for graduates who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting employment after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Alabaster AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to decide which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can begin the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many students confine their searches to the schools that are nearest to Alabaster AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional factors that you must examine when evaluating programs. To help you with that process, below are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to verify that the school you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted organizations for accreditation are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If your program is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Alabaster AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passage Percentage? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to find out which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will want to choose a program focused on that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course schools with low rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can elect to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take about two years to accomplish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, make certain that the Alabama schools you are looking at offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Alabaster AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent method to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students establish relationships within the Alabaster medical community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Service Provided? Getting that very first job can be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Alabaster AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indication of how much individual instruction you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a couple of classes before selecting a school to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full time, it's essential that the college you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Alabaster AL, confirm that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will also have to schedule any internships or clinical training that might be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family issues.
Choose the Best Alabaster AL Medical Assistant Training
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will provide the proper training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must get the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make certain that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can subsequently start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Alabaster AL.