How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant School Program near Hoover Alabama
Once you have made a decision to join the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Hoover AL, it's time to select a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? Many potential students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues also. You might decide to look into several online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to assist you with that process, we have included a few questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The duties of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Basically their function is to make sure that the Hoover AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the type or size of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with providing direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying basic support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the options available 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 Training
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, many Hoover AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about one year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs offered at Alabama junior and community colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare 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 similar field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for individuals who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining a position after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Hoover AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are an excellent choice for individuals who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good alternative for Alabama students who continue to work full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened as well. Just remember that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be carried out in Hoover AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your training might be the best choice for you. With the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school options, you have to choose which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of students restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Hoover AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you should explore when researching schools. To help you with that task, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to ensure that the program you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Hoover AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passage Percentage? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to learn which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Next, ask 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. Of course programs with low rates are ones that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require about 2 years to accomplish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, make certain that the Alabama schools you are looking at provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Hoover AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on practical training and experience. They can also assist students build relationships within the Hoover health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Finding that initial job can be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Hoover 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 health care community. It also suggests 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 attention you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a program to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full-time, it's important that the program you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Hoover AL, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will still have to schedule any clinical training or internships that might be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Hoover AL Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will provide the proper training. Whether you're goal is to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must obtain the appropriate info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of schools offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, verify that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Hoover AL.