How to Choose the Right CMA Training Program near Decatur Alabama
Once you have made a decision to join the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Decatur AL, it's time to select a school that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the ideal one? Most prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors as well. You might choose to look into some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you need to finish your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to assist you with that process, we have provided a few questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
The Duties of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their job is ensure that the Decatur AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work operate efficiently. Based 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 providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing basic support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants may carry out almost any task they are qualified to under Alabama law, some prefer to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options available 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 many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, many Decatur AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about a year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs available at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more extensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a practical element involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are an excellent option for individuals who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good option for Alabama students who continue working full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be lessened also. Just keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be performed in Decatur AL area medical 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 option for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for those who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Decatur AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to decide which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. After those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of potential students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to Decatur AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional factors that you need to explore when assessing programs. To help you with that process, below are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are many great reasons to confirm that the program you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 one of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Decatur AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must find out which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are interested in 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 contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Obviously programs with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are basically two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to one year. Or you can elect to obtain an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will take about 2 years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the Alabama schools you are looking at provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Decatur AL area health care providers. They are a great method to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also assist students develop relationships within the Decatur medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Getting that very first job may be a challenging task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are evaluating offer 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 students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much individual attention you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to attend a couple of classes before enrolling in a school to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full time, it's essential that the program you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Decatur AL, verify that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also have to schedule any internships or clinical training that may be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Decatur AL Medical Assistant Training
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to acquire the right info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Decatur AL.