How to Choose an Accredited Medical Assistant School near Decatur Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to enter 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 provide the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently enroll in the best one? A number of prospective students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues as well. You might want to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you must complete your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are reviewing. And to assist you with that process, we have furnished some questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
The Job of a Medical Assistant
The function of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their job is to make sure that the Decatur AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work operate successfully. Depending on the type or size of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the possible duties 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 tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and obtain 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 Courses
In contrast to most other medical 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 choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically 2 options available for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs available at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. 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, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent idea for individuals who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in getting a job after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible Decatur AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and perhaps the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Colleges
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are a good option for students who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good solution for Alabama students who continue working full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, many online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened also. But remember that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be carried out in Decatur AL area health care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your training may be the best option for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to choose which type of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. Once those decisions have been made, you can begin the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Decatur AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you should examine when evaluating programs. To assist you with that process, below are some questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are many great reasons to verify that the program you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become 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 agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Decatur AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School's Passage Rate? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to find out which of the certifications the programs you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Second, ask 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. Naturally programs with lower rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can elect to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require approximately two years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, confirm that the Alabama colleges you are looking at offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Decatur AL area medical providers. They are an excellent means to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students build relationships within the Decatur health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Getting that very first job can be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Decatur AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indication of how much individual instruction you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to instructors and face to face interaction. If possible, try to attend a few classes before choosing a college to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full-time, it's imperative that the program you select offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Decatur AL, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will also have to schedule all clinical training or internships that might be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Decatur AL Medical Assistant Program
It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant school that will provide the right training. Whether you're goal is to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to get the right info on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many schools offering training these days that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, verify that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can subsequently begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Decatur AL.