How to Choose the Right CMA Training Program near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have decided to enter the gratifying profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Birmingham AL, it's time to select a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately pick the right one? Most potential students begin by evaluating 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 extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors also. You might decide to look into several online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have provided a few questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" 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 Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Primarily their job is to make sure that the Birmingham AL hospitals, clinics and other medical care centers where they work operate successfully. Depending on the type or size of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Giving basic support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some prefer to specialize in a particular area and obtain certification. Two of the choices 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 Courses
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Birmingham AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically 2 choices provided for a formal education. The first and quickest way to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about a year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to earn an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs offered at Alabama community and junior colleges in addition to technical 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 classes. They usually have a practical element involving an internship with a local medical facility. 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 similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent option for those who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining employment after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many potential Birmingham AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to take the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are a good option for individuals who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good choice for Alabama students who continue working full time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be minimized as well. Just keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Birmingham AL area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your education may be the ideal option for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. After those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some potential students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Birmingham AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you must explore when assessing schools. To help you with that task, 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 School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to verify that the program you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the training 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 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 organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Also, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Birmingham AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School's Passing Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant schools design 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 considering are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Next, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the ways to help assess the quality of a college's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about 1 year. Or you can elect to earn an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require approximately two years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, make certain that the Alabama colleges you are considering offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Birmingham AL area healthcare providers. They are a great way to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also assist students develop relationships within the Birmingham medical community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Service Furnished? Landing that very first job can be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Birmingham AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much individual instruction you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If possible, try to attend a couple of classes before selecting a program to observe what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full time, it's important that the program you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will still need to schedule all clinical training or internships that may be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family issues.
Choose the Right Birmingham AL Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you're objective is to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges offering training these days that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, verify that the program you select is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend 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 supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Birmingham AL.