How to Choose an Accredited Medical Assistant Degree Program near Gadsden Alabama
Now that you have decided to become a part of the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Gadsden AL, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the ideal one? A number of future students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues as well. You might want to look into some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a program you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the schools you are assessing. And to help you with that task, we have included some questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their job is to make sure that the Gadsden AL hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions where they work operate efficiently. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with providing direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other health professionals but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Giving general support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants may perform almost any task they are authorized to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options 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 practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, many Gadsden 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 provided for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about one year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to earn an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs available at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a practical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for those who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a position after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some possible Gadsden AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received 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 apply for the CMA exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Schools
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online also. They are a good option for individuals who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good option for Alabama students who continue to work full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be reduced also. Just bear in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be performed in Gadsden AL area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your education may be the right choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school options, you have to decide which kind of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. After those choices have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many potential students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to Gadsden AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you should look at when assessing schools. To assist you with that process, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are several good reasons to ensure that the program you choose 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 must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 program is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many prospective Gadsden AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passing Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. 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 instance, then obviously you will need to select a program targeting that certification. Second, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can elect to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, verify that the Alabama colleges you are looking at offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Gadsden AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students build relationships within the Gadsden healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Getting that first job can be a challenging task for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Gadsden 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 signifies that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to attend a few classes before selecting a program to witness what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full time, it's essential that the school you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Gadsden AL, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will still have 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 work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Gadsden AL Medical Assistant Training
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant program that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, make sure that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan 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 online or on-campus school, be sure 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 subsequently start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Gadsden AL.