How to Pick the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have made a decision to become a part of the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Birmingham AL, it's time to select a college that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently pick the right one? Most potential students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest 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 also (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the schools you are examining. And to assist you with that process, we have included a few questions that you need to ask all 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 Function of Medical Assistants
The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Basically their job is ensure that the Birmingham AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work run successfully. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Giving basic support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and earn 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 Education
Compared to most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, many 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 basically 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about 1 year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to earn an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs provided at Alabama community and junior colleges as well as 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 training. They frequently have a clinical component involving an internship with a local medical facility. 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 similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are an excellent option for students who might not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good choice for Alabama students who continue working full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Supplemental costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be lessened also. Just keep in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Birmingham AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your training might be the ideal option for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for graduates who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining employment after graduation, but it may also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of potential Birmingham AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school options, you have to decide which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can begin the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students limit their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Birmingham AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you should look at when evaluating programs. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are many great reasons to ensure that the college you choose is accredited. To start with, 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 acknowledged agencies 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 qualified to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of 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 schools create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you need to learn 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 of course you will want to select a program targeting 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 ways to help assess the quality of a college's program. Naturally schools with low rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Provided? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to getting 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 about 1 year. Or you can decide to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take approximately 2 years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, verify that the Alabama schools you are considering provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Birmingham AL area health care providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also assist students develop relationships within the Birmingham medical community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Service Provided? Getting that initial job can be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges 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 students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a program to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it's essential that the college you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will still need to schedule all internships or practical training that might be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Birmingham AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant school that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you're objective is to begin a career in health care 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 so many schools providing training these days that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make certain that the program you select is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind 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 provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can subsequently begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Birmingham AL.