How to Find the Right Medical Assistant School Program near Decatur Alabama
Once you have decided to become a part of the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Decatur AL, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the ideal one? Many prospective students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues also. You may choose to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to finish your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are examining. And to assist you with that task, we have furnished some questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their job is to make sure that the Decatur AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the type or size of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants can carry out almost any task they are authorized to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the choices 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 Courses
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 Decatur AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically 2 options provided for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about one year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed 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 normally 2 year programs provided at Alabama community and junior colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They often have a clinical component involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are an excellent choice for students who might not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good solution for Alabama students who continue working full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be lessened as well. But bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be completed in Decatur AL area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this method of getting your training may be the ideal choice for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything needed 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 an excellent idea for those who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. A number of potential Decatur AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. One of 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 take the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to determine which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. Once those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, some potential students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Decatur AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you should explore when assessing programs. To assist you with that process, below are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many good reasons to confirm that the program you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 eligible to take the CMA examination. Also, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Decatur AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passing Percentage? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will need to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course schools with lower rates are ones that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can opt to obtain an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately 2 years to complete in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, make certain that the Alabama colleges you are looking at offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Decatur AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent method to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They may also help students build relationships within the Decatur health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Service Furnished? Finding that initial job may be a daunting task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Decatur AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual attention you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to attend a few classes before choosing a school to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full-time, it's important that the college you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Decatur AL, confirm that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will also need to schedule all internships or practical training that will be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Decatur AL Medical Assistant Training
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant program that will furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to acquire the appropriate info on available programs before making your decision. There are so many colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, confirm that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you intend on 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, make sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Decatur AL.