How to Pick the Best CMA Degree Program near Dothan Alabama
Once you have decided 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 choose a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? Most potential students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important factors as well. You may choose to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the colleges you are examining. And to assist you with that task, we have included a few questions that you need to 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 type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Role of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their role is to make sure that the Dothan AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Providing basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any task they are qualified to under Alabama law, some prefer to specialize in a particular area and attain 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 healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Dothan AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially two options available for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about one year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed 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 usually two year programs available at Alabama community and junior colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a practical component involving an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are an excellent alternative for students who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good choice for Alabama students who continue to work full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, a number of online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be lessened as well. But keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be carried out in Dothan AL area medical facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this mode of getting your education might be the right choice for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good option for graduates who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in attaining employment after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. Many potential Dothan AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. One of 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). To qualify to take the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school options, you must choose which type of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. As soon as those decisions have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, some students confine their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Dothan AL with the cheapest 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 must examine when evaluating programs. To help you with that process, below are some questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to confirm that the college you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 eligible to take the CMA exam. Also, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Dothan AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to find out which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will need to choose a program focused on that certification. Second, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the methods to help assess the quality of a college's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are ones that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select 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 about one year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will take approximately 2 years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, make sure that the Alabama colleges you are looking at provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Dothan AL area medical providers. They are a great method to receive hands-on practical training and experience. They can also assist students build relationships within the Dothan medical community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Supplied? Getting that initial job may be a challenging undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Dothan AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indication of how much personal instruction you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a few classes before selecting a program 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 school while you continue working full time, it's important that the college you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Dothan AL, make sure that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will also need to schedule any internships or clinical training that will be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Best Dothan AL Medical Assistant Program
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you're goal is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must obtain the appropriate information 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 addressed in this article, confirm that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Dothan AL.