How to Choose an Accredited Medical Assistant School near Huntsville Alabama
Once you have decided to enter the gratifying field 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 comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? Many potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors also. You might decide to research several online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to assist you with that task, we have included some questions that you should ask each of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are available.
The Duties of Medical Assistants
The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Primarily their duty is ensure that the Huntsville AL hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions where they work run 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 responsible for giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health practitioners but may 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
- 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 general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Education
In contrast to most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, many 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 basically 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about one year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs provided at Alabama community and junior 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 frequently have a clinical element involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Medical Assistant Online Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are an excellent option for those who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good solution for Alabama students who continue to work full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be lessened also. But bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Huntsville AL area health care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of getting your education may be the right choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for those who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in securing a position after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Huntsville AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and perhaps the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school options, you need to decide which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. Once those selections have been made, you can begin the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many prospective students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to Huntsville AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you must look at when evaluating schools. To assist you with that task, following are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several great reasons to confirm that the school you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged organizations 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 one of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many prospective Huntsville AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to determine which of the certifications the schools you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Second, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can choose to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take approximately 2 years to finish in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, confirm that the Alabama colleges you are considering provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Huntsville AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent means to receive hands-on practical training and experience. They may also assist students build relationships within the Huntsville healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Service Offered? Landing that first job can be a difficult undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain 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 ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal attention you will receive during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to monitor a couple of classes before enrolling in a college to witness what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working on a full time basis, it's imperative that the program 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 might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will still need to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Huntsville AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you're goal is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must obtain the appropriate info on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many schools offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you plan on 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, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the best program you can subsequently start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Huntsville AL.