How to Find an Accredited Medical Assistant Training Program near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have made a decision to join the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Birmingham AL, it's time to select a college that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately pick the best one? Most future students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues also. You might want to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are reviewing. And to assist you with that task, we have provided some questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
The Job of a Medical Assistant
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their duty is ensure that the Birmingham AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities where they work run successfully. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the nurses, doctors and other health professionals but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Providing basic support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants can perform almost any task they are qualified to under Alabama law, some prefer to specialize in a particular area and attain 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 Courses
Unlike most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Birmingham AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally 2 options provided for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about a year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs available 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 general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They frequently have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. 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 related field.
Medical Assistant Online Programs
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are a good option for those who may not have the time to attend 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, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be lessened also. But bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be performed in Birmingham AL area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of getting your training may be the best option for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for graduates who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining a job after graduation, but it might also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Birmingham AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. One of 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 sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you must decide which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to Birmingham AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should examine when researching programs. To help you with that process, below are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are many good reasons to verify that the college you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the approved organizations for accreditation are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If your school is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many potential Birmingham AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you must learn which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to select a program concentrating on that certification. Second, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Obviously schools with lower rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Available? As we covered earlier, there are basically two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and obtain 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 choose to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take about 2 years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you elect to pursue, confirm that the Alabama schools you are looking at provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Birmingham AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent way to receive hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also assist students establish relationships within the Birmingham healthcare community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Finding that initial job may be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating 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 students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much individual instruction you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a program to witness what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the school you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will still have 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 because of illness, work or family issues.
Choose the Best Birmingham AL Medical Assistant Program
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you're goal is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to obtain the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges providing training these days that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, confirm that the program you select is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, make sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can subsequently begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Birmingham AL.