How to Select the Best CMA Training Program near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have decided to enter the gratifying profession of health care 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 comparing and evaluating colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the best one? Many potential students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues also. You might choose to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are examining. And to help you with that process, we have furnished several questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Primarily their job is to make sure that the Birmingham AL hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions 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 assistance to the nurses, doctors and other health professionals but can 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 verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may carry out almost any task they are authorized to under Alabama law, some opt 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 Education
Unlike many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain 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 are certified. There are generally 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about 1 year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs offered at Alabama community and junior colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a clinical 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 related field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent option for individuals who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in securing a job after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Birmingham AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and possibly the most highly regarded 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 be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Schools
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are an excellent choice for individuals who may not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good option for Alabama students who continue to work full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized also. But bear in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be carried out in Birmingham AL area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your education may be the ideal choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to choose which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can begin the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of potential students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to Birmingham AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should look at when assessing programs. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many great reasons to make certain that the school you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both comprehensive 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 one of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not available 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 program.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you must find out which of the certifications the programs you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will want to choose a program targeting that certification. Second, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with low rates are ones that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are generally two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate 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 opt to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to accomplish in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you choose to enroll in, verify that the Alabama colleges you are looking at offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Birmingham AL area healthcare providers. They are a great means to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They can also help students develop relationships within the Birmingham healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Finding that first job may be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Birmingham AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a college to observe what the teaching environment is like and 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 enroll in offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that those times are offered. 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 might be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Birmingham AL Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will provide the proper 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 need to get the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many schools offering training these days that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, verify that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially 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 made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online 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 fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Birmingham AL.