How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant School Program near Huntsville Alabama
Now that you have decided to become a part of the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Huntsville AL, it's time to choose a school that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Many future students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues as well. You might want to look into some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have furnished a few questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your short list. But before we start 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 demanding. Primarily their role is to make sure that the Huntsville AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers where they work operate successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the potential duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Giving general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the options offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Courses
Compared to many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Huntsville AL health care employers would rather 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 path to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about one year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs available at Alabama community and junior colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a clinical component involving 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.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are an excellent option for those who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good choice for Alabama students who continue to work full time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Supplemental expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be lessened as well. But remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be completed in Huntsville AL area medical facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your education may be the ideal choice for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for graduates who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in securing a position after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Huntsville 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). To qualify to take the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered also, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to decide which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. Once those choices have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to Huntsville AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional factors that you should explore when evaluating programs. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to make sure that the program you enroll in is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to complete 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. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Huntsville AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passage Percentage? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to determine which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will need to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the means to help assess the quality of a college's program. Obviously programs with lower rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate 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 opt to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require approximately two years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, confirm that the Alabama colleges you are considering offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? A large number of medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Huntsville AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent method to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also assist students develop relationships within the Huntsville health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Finding that very first job may be a difficult undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Huntsville AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to instructors and face to face interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a couple of classes before selecting a school to experience what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full-time, it's important that the school you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Huntsville AL, make certain that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also have to schedule any clinical training or internships that may be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Huntsville AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant college that will furnish the right 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 need to get the right info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, make certain that the program you select is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective 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, be sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the best program you can ultimately start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Huntsville AL.