How to Enroll In the Best CMA Degree 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 furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? A number of potential students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors as well. You might want to research a few online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the colleges you are evaluating. And to assist you with that process, we have provided several questions that you should ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
The Function of a Medical Assistant
The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Basically their function is to make sure that the Birmingham AL hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the potential duties of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Supplying basic support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants can carry out almost any task they are authorized to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the options offered 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
Compared 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 (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about a year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare 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 together with 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 classes. They frequently have a practical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Medical Assistant Online Programs
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are a good option for students who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good choice for Alabama students who continue to work full-time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, a number of online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Supplemental costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be reduced also. But bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be completed in Birmingham AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to getting your training might be the best choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for graduates who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining a job after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. A number of potential Birmingham AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and perhaps the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to determine which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. Once those selections have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Birmingham AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you must look at when evaluating schools. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are several good reasons to ensure that the school you select is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 either of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many potential Birmingham AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passage Percentage? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to find out which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Second, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Obviously programs with low rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Available? As we covered earlier, there are generally two routes to acquiring 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 closer to one year. Or you can decide to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take about two years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, verify that the Alabama colleges you are reviewing provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? A large number of medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Birmingham AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent way 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 asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Finding that first job can be a daunting undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Birmingham AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, 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 positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a couple of classes before enrolling in a school to observe what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full time, it's imperative that the college you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online college, but you will also have to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Birmingham AL Medical Assistant Training
It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant school that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you're objective is to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must obtain the appropriate info 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 selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed 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 regardless of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can subsequently start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Birmingham AL.