How to Select an Accredited Medical Assistant Degree Program near Alabaster Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the gratifying profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Alabaster AL, it's time to choose a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the right one? Many potential students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important factors as well. You might want to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select 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 some questions that you should ask each of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are offered.
The Role of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Basically their job is ensure that the Alabaster AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work run successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other health practitioners but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing general support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any task they are qualified to under Alabama law, some prefer to specialize in a particular area and obtain certification. Two of the choices 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 healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Alabaster AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 choices provided for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs available at Alabama community and junior colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a practical element requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are an excellent alternative for those who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good option for Alabama students who continue to work full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be lessened as well. Just remember that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be carried out in Alabaster AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your training may be the ideal choice for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good idea for those who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in getting a position after graduation, but it might also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many possible Alabaster AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to apply for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can begin the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students limit their searches to the schools that are closest to Alabaster AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to look at when assessing programs. To help you with that process, below are a few questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many good reasons to ensure that the school you enroll in is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 school is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered 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 School's Passing Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you must determine which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to choose a program focused on that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the methods to help assess the quality of a college's program. Of course schools with low rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Provided? As we previously covered, there are basically two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can elect to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take about 2 years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the Alabama colleges you are considering provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Alabaster AL area medical providers. They are a great way to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also help students develop relationships within the Alabaster healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Supplied? Getting that first job may be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Alabaster AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a large network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? Class size can be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a few classes before selecting a college to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the college you select offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Alabaster AL, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will still have to schedule any clinical training or internships that will be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Alabaster AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will provide the right training. Whether you're goal is to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to acquire the appropriate info on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, make sure that the program you select is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Alabaster AL.