How to Find the Right CMA Degree Program near Alabaster Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Alabaster AL, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately pick the right one? Many prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues as well. You may decide to research some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you must carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the schools you are assessing. And to assist you with that process, we have furnished a few questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their function is ensure that the Alabaster AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare centers where they work run efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health practitioners but can also be found performing duties 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
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Giving general support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can perform almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the options offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Courses
In contrast to most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated 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 school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially 2 choices offered for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about one year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at Alabama junior and community colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They usually have a practical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online as well. They are an excellent alternative for students who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good choice for Alabama students who continue to work full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, a number of online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be minimized also. But remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be completed in Alabaster AL area health care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your education may be the ideal choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for those who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a position after graduation, but it might also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many potential Alabaster AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school options, you have to determine which type of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. As soon as those decisions have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of potential students restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Alabaster AL with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you need to examine when researching programs. To help you with that process, below are some questions that you need to ask about each of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are several good reasons to verify that the school you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged agencies for accreditation are the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). If your program is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Alabaster AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passing Rate? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to determine which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and get 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 acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take approximately 2 years to finish in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, verify that the Alabama colleges you are reviewing offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Alabaster AL area medical providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also assist students develop relationships within the Alabaster medical community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Supplied? Finding that very first job may be a difficult undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Alabaster AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indicator of how much personal attention you will receive during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to attend a couple of classes before selecting a college to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue working full-time, it's imperative that the college you enroll in offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Alabaster AL, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also need to schedule all internships or clinical training that may be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Alabaster AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you're planning to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must obtain the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of schools offering training these days that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make sure that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized organization, such as 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 decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Alabaster AL.