How to Choose the Right Medical Assistant Course near Decatur Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to enter the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Decatur AL, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the best one? Most prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You might decide to take a look at a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you must complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to assist you with that process, we have included several questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Duties of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Essentially their function is ensure that the Decatur AL hospitals, clinics and other medical care facilities where they work operate successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can 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 medical professionals but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some 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
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing general support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some opt 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) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Education
Unlike most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required 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 school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially two choices available for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about a year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed 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 2 year programs available at Alabama community and junior colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually 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.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for those who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a position after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Decatur AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online also. They are a good choice for students who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good alternative for Alabama students who continue to work full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be reduced also. But bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Decatur AL area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your training might be the best option for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school options, you need to determine which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. Once those decisions have been made, you can begin the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to Decatur AL with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to examine when evaluating programs. To assist you with that task, following are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the schools you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are several good reasons to confirm that the college you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction 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 accepted 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 either of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Decatur AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passing Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to ready 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 instance, then naturally you will want to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Next, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the methods to help assess the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are ones that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are generally two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately 2 years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, make certain that the Alabama colleges you are considering provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Decatur AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent means to get hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students build relationships within the Decatur healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Getting that initial job may be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Decatur AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much individual attention you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a few classes before enrolling in a program to witness what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the program you enroll in offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Decatur AL, make certain that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online college, but you will still need to schedule all internships or practical training that might be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Best Decatur AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant program that will provide the right training. Whether you're goal is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the appropriate information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools providing training these days that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can subsequently begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Decatur AL.