How to Pick an Accredited CMA Program near Alabaster Alabama
Now that you have decided to enter the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Alabaster AL, it's time to select a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the right one? Many future students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors also. You may choose to research a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you must carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are evaluating. And to assist you with that process, we have included several questions that you should ask each of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
The Job of a Medical Assistant
The function of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Basically their function is to make sure 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 an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with 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 potential duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Supplying general support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants may carry out almost any activity they are authorized to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and earn certification. Two of the choices 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 Education
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Alabaster AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs generally take about one year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs offered at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more extensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a practical component requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for those who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a position after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Alabaster AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to apply for the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered as well, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are a good option for individuals who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good option for Alabama students who continue working full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, a number of online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be reduced as well. Just bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be completed in Alabaster AL area health care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your education may be the ideal choice for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school options, you need to decide which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many students confine 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 not the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you should explore when researching programs. To help you with that task, following are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many great reasons to verify that the college you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted organizations 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 organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, many potential Alabaster AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you must learn which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will need to choose a program focused on that certification. Second, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Naturally schools with low rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are basically two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can elect to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require approximately two years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, make sure that the Alabama colleges you are looking at offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? Many medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Alabaster AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent way to receive hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also assist students develop relationships within the Alabaster medical community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Offered? Finding that first job can be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm 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 higher job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to attend a few classes before selecting a program to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full time, it's imperative that the college you choose provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Alabaster AL, make sure that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will still have to schedule any internships or clinical training that will be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Alabaster AL Medical Assistant Training
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will provide the proper training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you need to get the right information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many schools providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, verify that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided 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 ideal program you can subsequently begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Alabaster AL.