How to Find the Right Medical Assistant School near Huntsville Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Huntsville AL, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately pick the right one? Most potential students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues also. You may decide to research a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. 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 role of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Role of a Medical Assistant
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their function is to make sure that the Huntsville AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions where they work run successfully. Depending on the type or size of facility, they can 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 duties of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Providing basic support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some prefer to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the choices 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 Training
Compared to most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Huntsville AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially two choices provided for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about one year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs provided at Alabama junior and community colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They often have a practical component involving an internship with a local medical facility. 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 related field.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are a good alternative for students who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good solution for Alabama students who continue working full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, many online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Supplemental costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be minimized as well. Just keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be performed in Huntsville AL area medical facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your training might be the right option for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for individuals who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a job after graduation, but it may also enhance initial salary negotiations. Some potential Huntsville AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to examining your medical assistant school options, you need to choose which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can start the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many prospective students confine their searches to the schools that are nearest to Huntsville AL with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional factors that you should look at when researching schools. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many good reasons to make certain that the school you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the training 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 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 one of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Huntsville AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passing Percentage? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you need to find out which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to select a program targeting that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the means to help assess the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with low rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we covered earlier, there are basically two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can decide to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about 2 years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, make certain that the Alabama schools you are looking at offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Huntsville AL area healthcare providers. They are a great means to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They may also assist students develop relationships within the Huntsville medical community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Landing that initial job can be a daunting undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Huntsville AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a few classes before enrolling in a school to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it's imperative that the college you enroll in offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Huntsville AL, confirm that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will also need to schedule all internships or clinical training that might be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Huntsville AL Medical Assistant Training
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will provide the right training. Regardless if you're planning 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 prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training these days that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make sure 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 examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can subsequently begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Huntsville AL.