Home >> Alabama >> Decatur >> Medical Assistant Courses


Become a Medical Assistant Decatur AL 35601

How to Find an Accredited Medical Assistant Course near Decatur Alabama

Decatur AL CMA with medical chartOnce you have decided to join the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Decatur AL, it's time to choose a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately pick the right one? Most future students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors also. You might choose to research some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The main point is that before you select a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the schools you are reviewing. And to assist you with that process, we have provided some questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.

The Job of Medical Assistants

Decatur AL CMA taking vital signs of patient

The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Primarily their role is to make sure that the Decatur AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work run 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 responsible for giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the possible responsibilities of a medical assistant include:

  • Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
  • Scheduling and verifying appointments
  • Weighing and taking patients vital signs
  • Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
  • Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
  • Providing general support during exams and procedures

Although medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Alabama law, some prefer to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the choices offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

Medical Assistant Education

Decatur AL CMA welcoming patientUnlike many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, many Decatur AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically 2 choices offered for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about a year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs offered at Alabama junior and community colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a practical component requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.

Certification Options for Medical Assistants

As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for those who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in securing a job after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. Some potential Decatur AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to apply for the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Schools

Decatur AL woman attending medical assistant online classesThere are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are an excellent option 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 choice for Alabama students who continue to work full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Supplemental expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be minimized as well. Just bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be completed in Decatur AL area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this method of receiving your training might be the ideal choice for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.

Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Programs

Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to choose which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. After those selections have been made, you can begin the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many potential students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Decatur AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you need to examine when evaluating programs. To help you with that task, following are some questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your final choice.

Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many good reasons to ensure that the school you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 examination. Also, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many prospective Decatur AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.

What is the School's Passage Percentage? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must find out which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will want to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Second, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the means to help assess the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with low rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.

Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 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 community college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, verify that the Alabama colleges you are looking at provide the kind of program you have an interest in.

Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Decatur AL area healthcare providers. They are a great method to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also assist students establish relationships within the Decatur health care community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Finding that first job may be a difficult undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Decatur AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in jobs.

How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much personal attention you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a couple of classes before choosing a college to witness what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.

Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full time, it's important that the college you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Decatur AL, make certain that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will still need to schedule any clinical training or internships that may be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Enroll in the Best Decatur AL Medical Assistant Training

It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you're planning to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must obtain the appropriate info on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many schools offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make sure that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Decatur AL.