How to Choose the Right CMA Program near Gadsden Alabama
Now that you have decided to join the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Gadsden AL, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Most prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors as well. You may choose to research a few online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you must complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are assessing. And to help you with that process, we have included some questions that you need to ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
The Role of Medical Assistants
The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their job is ensure that the Gadsden AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care institutions where they work run efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative 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:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants may perform almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and earn certification. Two of the options available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Education
Compared to most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Gadsden AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically 2 options provided for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about one year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs available at Alabama community and junior colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more expansive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a practical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are an excellent choice for individuals who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good solution for Alabama students who continue working full time while earning their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened also. Just bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be completed in Gadsden AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of receiving your training may be the best option for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent idea for those who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in securing a job after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible Gadsden AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained 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 exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school options, you must decide which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many prospective students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to Gadsden AL with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you must look at when evaluating programs. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are many great reasons to confirm that the college you enroll in 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 complete an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Gadsden AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passage Rate? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must 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 select a program concentrating on that certification. Second, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, make sure that the Alabama colleges you are considering offer the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Gadsden AL area medical providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on practical training and experience. They may also help students develop relationships within the Gadsden health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Landing that initial job may be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating offer 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 affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much individual attention you will receive throughout 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 possible, try to monitor a few classes before enrolling in a program to witness what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full time, it's important that the program you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Gadsden AL, make certain that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will still have to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family issues.
Choose the Right Gadsden AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate 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 life long career, you need to acquire the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, verify that the program you select is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless 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 provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Gadsden AL.