How to Select the Best CMA Degree Program near Florence Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Florence AL, it's time to select a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick 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 cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You might choose to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a college you must complete your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the schools you are examining. And to assist you with that task, we have provided several questions that you should ask all of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
The Function of a Medical Assistant
The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Basically their role is to make sure that the Florence AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the type or size of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Supplying general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants may carry out almost any task they are authorized to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and obtain certification. Two of the choices offered 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 Programs
Compared to most other medical professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Florence AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally two options available for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain 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 developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs offered at Alabama community and junior colleges in addition to technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a practical element involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for graduates who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in getting a job after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Florence AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available as well, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Colleges
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are an excellent choice for those 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 option for Alabama students who continue working full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be reduced also. Just bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be completed in Florence AL area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your training might be the ideal choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to examining your medical assistant school options, you must determine which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. After those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Florence AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you need to examine when evaluating programs. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many great reasons to make sure that the college you enroll in 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 complete 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 agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, many prospective Florence AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to find out which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will need to select a program focused on that certification. Next, find out what the program'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 low rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are generally two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and obtain 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 decide to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require approximately 2 years to complete in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, make certain that the Alabama schools you are reviewing provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? Numerous medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Florence AL area medical providers. They are an excellent method to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students develop relationships within the Florence 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? Finding that first job may be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Florence AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indicator of how much personal attention you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to monitor a few classes before enrolling in a school to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it's important that the college you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Florence AL, confirm that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will still need to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Additionally, 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 Right Florence AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant school that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you're goal 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 appropriate info on available programs before making your selection. There are so many colleges offering training these days that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you anticipate 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 online or on-campus school, make sure 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 fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Florence AL.