How to Pick the Best CMA School near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to enter the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Birmingham AL, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Many prospective students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors as well. You might decide to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an option 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 relevant qualifications of the colleges you are examining. And to assist you with that task, we have provided some questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Duties of a Medical Assistant
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Basically their function is ensure that the Birmingham AL hospitals, clinics and other medical care centers where they work operate 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 responsible for providing direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the possible responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving basic support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants can perform almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and earn 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 Programs
In contrast to most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Birmingham AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically 2 choices offered for a formal education. The first and quickest way to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about one year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are developed 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 normally 2 year programs provided at Alabama junior and community colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a practical component involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are an excellent choice for those who might not have the time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good solution for Alabama students who continue to work full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be reduced also. Just bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be completed in Birmingham AL area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your education may be the ideal choice for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for those who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in securing a job after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many potential Birmingham AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for 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 CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to decide which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. Once those decisions have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Birmingham AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should examine when researching schools. To assist you with that process, below are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many great reasons to make sure that the college you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in 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 program is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many potential Birmingham AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the schools you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will want to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Next, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Of course schools with lower rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can decide to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require approximately two years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, confirm that the Alabama schools you are reviewing provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Birmingham AL area health care providers. They are a great method to get hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the Birmingham healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Service Offered? Getting that very first job may be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Birmingham 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 a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator 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 furnish greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a few classes before selecting a school to witness what the teaching atmosphere 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 essential that the college you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will also have to schedule all internships or clinical training that might be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Birmingham AL Medical Assistant Program
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will provide the appropriate 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 get the right info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you anticipate 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, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Birmingham AL.