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Become a Medical Assistant Dothan AL 36301

How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant School near Dothan Alabama

Dothan AL medical assistant with medical chartNow that you have made a decision to become a part of the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Dothan AL, it's time to select a school that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? Many prospective students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important factors as well. You might choose to take a look at a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you must complete your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the schools you are reviewing. And to assist you with that process, we have provided several questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.

The Job of Medical Assistants

Dothan AL medical assistant taking vital signs of patient

The duties of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Essentially their role is to make sure that the Dothan AL hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions where they work run successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the potential duties of a medical assistant include:

  • Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
  • Setting and confirming appointments
  • Taking vital signs and weighing patients
  • Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
  • Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
  • Supplying general support during examinations and procedures

Although medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some elect 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 Education

Dothan AL medical assistant opening door for patient on crutchesUnlike many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Dothan AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally 2 options provided 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, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs provided at Alabama junior and community colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a practical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.

Certification Programs for Medical Assistants

As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent idea for individuals who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting employment after graduation, but it might also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of potential Dothan AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. Among 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). To qualify to apply for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.

Online Medical Assistant Colleges

Dothan Alabama student attending medical assistant online schoolThere are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are a good choice for students who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good solution for Alabama students who continue to work full-time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, many online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened as well. But keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be performed in Dothan AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your training might be the right choice for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.

What to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges

Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school options, you must choose which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. After those decisions have been made, you can begin the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many potential students limit their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Dothan AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you need to look at when assessing programs. To help you with that process, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final choice.

Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are several good reasons to make sure that the school you choose is accredited. To begin 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 need to complete an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Dothan AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.

What is the Program's Passage Percentage? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to learn which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to select a program concentrating on that certification. Second, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Obviously programs with low rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.

Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and receive 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 decide 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. Whichever program you choose to pursue, verify that the Alabama colleges you are looking at offer the type of program you have an interest in.

Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Dothan AL area medical care providers. They are a great means to get hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also assist students build relationships within the Dothan healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.

Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Finding that initial job may be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Dothan AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a large network of employers to help place students in positions.

How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to attend a few classes before choosing a college to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students receive.

Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it's important that the school you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Dothan AL, verify that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will also have to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family issues.

Choose the Best Dothan AL Medical Assistant Training

It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant college that will furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you're objective is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to get the right information on available programs before making your decision. There are so many colleges providing training these days that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can ultimately start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Dothan AL.