How to Find the Best CMA School near Auburn Alabama
Once you have made a decision to join the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Auburn AL, it's time to select a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately pick the best one? Most prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues also. You might decide to research several online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have provided some questions that you need to ask each of the colleges on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their role is to make sure that the Auburn AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare centers where they work run successfully. Depending on the type or size of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other health practitioners but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the possible duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants may carry out almost any task they are authorized to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and earn certification. Two of the options available 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
Unlike many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Auburn AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically two choices offered for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about one year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to earn an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive 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 commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for those who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in securing employment after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Many potential Auburn AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. 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 take the CMA exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Courses
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are a good choice for those who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good option for Alabama students who continue working full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be lessened as well. But keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be performed in Auburn AL area medical facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this method of getting your education might be the best option for you. With the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to decide which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students limit their searches to the schools that are closest to Auburn AL with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you should explore when evaluating programs. To assist 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 final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are several great reasons to confirm that the school you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted agencies 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 either of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many potential Auburn AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must learn which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to select a program targeting that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with low rates are ones that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is about 1 year. Or you can elect to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take about two years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, confirm that the Alabama schools you are reviewing provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Auburn AL area healthcare providers. They are a great method to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also assist students develop relationships within the Auburn medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Furnished? Landing that first job can be a daunting task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Auburn 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 indicates that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much individual instruction you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before enrolling in a college to observe what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full time, it's important that the program you enroll in offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Auburn AL, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will also need to schedule all internships or practical training that will be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Best Auburn AL Medical Assistant Program
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant school that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you're objective is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the appropriate info on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training these days that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make sure that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective 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, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can subsequently begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Auburn AL.