How to Pick the Best CMA School near Huntsville Alabama
Now that you have decided to become a part of the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Huntsville AL, it's time to select a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the right one? Many future students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You might want to research some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you must finish your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the schools you are reviewing. And to assist you with that process, we have provided several questions that you need to 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 Function of a Medical Assistant
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Basically their duty is ensure that the Huntsville AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers where they work run efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for providing direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Providing basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are authorized to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the choices 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 Courses
Unlike many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Huntsville AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially 2 choices offered for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs generally take about a year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at Alabama junior and community colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare practice. 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 Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good choice for individuals who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Some potential Huntsville AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are a good 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 alternative for Alabama students who continue to work full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, many online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be reduced also. Just bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be completed in Huntsville AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this mode of getting your training may be the best option for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school options, you have to decide which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. Once those choices have been made, you can begin the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to Huntsville AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to look at when assessing schools. To assist you with that process, below are a few questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to make certain that the program you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 program is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many prospective Huntsville AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passage Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must determine which of the certifications the programs you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will want to select a program targeting that certification. Second, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can choose to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take approximately two years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, make sure that the Alabama schools you are looking at offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? A large number of medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Huntsville AL area medical providers. They are an excellent method to get hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also help students develop relationships within the Huntsville medical 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 may be a challenging undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Huntsville AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much individual attention you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to attend a few classes before choosing a program to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's essential that the program you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Huntsville AL, make certain that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also need to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Additionally, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Huntsville AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will provide the right 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 right information on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of schools providing training these days 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 select is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Huntsville AL.