How to Choose the Right CMA Training Program near Huntsville Alabama
Once you have decided to become a part of the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Huntsville AL, it's time to choose a college that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Most future students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You may decide to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are examining. And to help you with that task, we have provided a few 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 responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their role is to make sure that the Huntsville AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare centers where they work operate efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing general support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Alabama law, some opt 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) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Courses
Compared to most other medical professionals, 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 basically two options provided for a formal education. The first and quickest way to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about a year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs offered at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a practical element requiring an internship with a local medical 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.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent option for individuals who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in securing a job after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible Huntsville AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to apply for the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are a good alternative for those who might 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 degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be reduced also. But keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be carried out in Huntsville AL area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your education might be the ideal option for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to examining your medical assistant school options, you must choose which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. After those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, some potential students restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Huntsville AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you must explore when evaluating programs. To assist you with that task, below are a few questions that you need to ask about all 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 make sure that the school you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 school is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, many prospective Huntsville AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to find out which of the certifications the schools you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will need to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Next, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is one of the ways to help assess the quality of a college's program. Obviously schools with low rates are ones that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Provided? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can choose to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take about 2 years to accomplish in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, make certain that the Alabama schools you are looking at provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? A large number of medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Huntsville AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent method to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They may also assist students build relationships within the Huntsville healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Finding that first job may be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching 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 medical community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much personal attention you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a couple of classes before enrolling in a college to witness what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full-time, it's important that the college you select offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends near Huntsville AL, make sure that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will still have to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family issues.
Choose the Best Huntsville AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant school that will provide the right training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the appropriate information on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering training these days that you can make a decision based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, make sure that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you anticipate 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 supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Huntsville AL.