How to Select the Right CMA Course near Gadsden Alabama
Once you have decided to enter the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Gadsden AL, it's time to select a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the best one? A number of future students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors also. You may choose to research several online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are assessing. And to assist you with that task, we have included some questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are offered.
The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their role is to make sure that the Gadsden AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work operate successfully. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for giving direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants can perform almost any activity they are authorized to under Alabama law, some prefer to specialize in a particular area and attain certification. Two of the options available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Education
Compared to most other healthcare 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 program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally two choices offered for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about one year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are created 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 2 year programs available at Alabama community and junior colleges together with trade 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 classes. They frequently have a practical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. 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 similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are an excellent choice for students who might not have the time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good choice for Alabama students who continue to work full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, a number of online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Supplemental expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened also. But remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be completed in Gadsden AL area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your education may be the best option for you. With the online classes 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 mandate, but is a good idea for graduates who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in securing a position after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Many possible Gadsden AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and perhaps the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school options, you must determine which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. After those choices have been made, you can begin the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Gadsden AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you must examine when assessing programs. To help you with that process, below are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are several good reasons to verify that the program you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 school is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Also, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Gadsden AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you must determine which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to choose a program concentrating 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 evaluate the quality of a school's program. Obviously programs with lower rates are ones that you will want to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are basically two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can elect to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take about 2 years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, make sure that the Alabama colleges you are considering offer the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? Numerous medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Gadsden AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent way to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also assist students build relationships within the Gadsden health care community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Landing that first job may be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Gadsden AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care 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 indicator of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a few classes before selecting a program to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working on a full time basis, it's imperative 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 Gadsden AL, make certain that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also have to schedule any internships or practical training that may be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Gadsden AL Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will furnish the proper training. Whether you're goal is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must acquire the appropriate information on available programs before making your decision. 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 discussed in this article, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type of credential that you plan 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 so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Gadsden AL.