How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant Course near Decatur Alabama
Once 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 select a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? A number of future students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues as well. You may decide 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 finish your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are reviewing. And to assist you with that process, we have furnished several questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your short list. But before we start 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 Job of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Primarily their job is ensure that the Decatur AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions where they work operate successfully. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for giving direct assistance 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 possible functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants may carry out almost any activity they are authorized to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and obtain 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
Unlike many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, a number of 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 essentially two options offered for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. 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 prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs available at Alabama junior and community 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 courses. They usually have a clinical component involving an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good idea for graduates who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in getting a job after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Decatur AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are a good option for students who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good choice for Alabama students who continue working full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened as well. But keep in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be performed in Decatur AL area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your training might be the best choice for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to choose 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 choices have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of potential students limit their searches to the schools that are closest to Decatur AL with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you should look at when researching schools. To assist you with that task, below are a few questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to confirm that the school you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved agencies for accreditation are the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). If your program is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, many prospective Decatur AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you need to find out which of the certifications the colleges you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will want to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Next, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the methods to help assess the quality of a college's program. Of course programs with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and receive 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 receive a more comprehensive education that will require approximately two years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to enroll in, make sure that the Alabama schools you are looking at offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? A large number of medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Decatur AL area medical providers. They are an excellent method to receive hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Decatur healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Finding that first job may be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Decatur AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also suggests that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indication 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 offer greater access to instructors and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to attend a couple of classes before selecting a college to witness what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue working full time, it's imperative that the college you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend 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 any internships or practical training that may 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 Best Decatur AL Medical Assistant Program
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you're planning to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must acquire the right info on available programs before making your decision. There are so many colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, confirm that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Decatur AL.