How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have made a decision to become a part of the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Birmingham AL, it's time to select a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently enroll in the ideal one? Many prospective students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors also. You may want to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have included a few questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
The Duties of Medical Assistants
The duties of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their function is ensure that the Birmingham AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare centers where they work run successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Providing basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants can perform almost any task they are qualified to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the options available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) made available by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training
Compared to most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Birmingham 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 two choices available for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about a year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs offered at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They usually have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for those who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a position after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Many possible Birmingham AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and possibly 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 exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Courses
There are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online as well. They are an excellent alternative for students who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good choice for Alabama students who continue to work full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, a number of online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Supplemental expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened as well. But remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be performed in Birmingham AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your training might be the ideal choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to determine which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. After those decisions have been made, you can begin the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many potential students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to Birmingham AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to examine when researching schools. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to confirm that the school you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction 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 acknowledged 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 one of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Also, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many prospective Birmingham AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passing Percentage? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you must learn which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to enroll in a program concentrating on that certification. Second, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the methods to help assess the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can decide to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require about 2 years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, make certain that the Alabama schools you are reviewing offer the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Birmingham AL area medical care providers. They are a great means to receive hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also help students develop relationships within the Birmingham healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Finding that initial job may be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Birmingham AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will receive during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a few classes before choosing a program to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue working full-time, it's imperative that the college you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make certain that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online college, but you will still have 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 because of illness, work or family issues.
Choose the Best Birmingham AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you're planning to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must acquire the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the type 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 supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the best program you can ultimately start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Birmingham AL.