How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant School Program near Huntsville Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the rewarding field 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 go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Most potential students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean 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 factors also. You might want to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must finish your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the colleges you are assessing. And to assist you with that task, we have furnished some questions that you should ask all of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.
The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Basically their role is ensure that the Huntsville AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions where they work operate efficiently. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving basic support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and earn 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
Unlike most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, many Huntsville AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally 2 choices provided for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about a year to complete, a few 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 alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs available at Alabama community and junior colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a practical component involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent option for graduates who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a job after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of potential Huntsville AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. 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). In order to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online as well. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good choice for Alabama students who continue working full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, many online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be lessened also. But remember that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be performed in Huntsville AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of receiving your training might be the ideal option for you. Between the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to decide which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many potential students restrict their searches to the colleges that are closest to Huntsville AL with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you must look at when assessing programs. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are several great reasons to make sure that the program you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become 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 school is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Huntsville AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passage Rate? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must learn which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will want to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Second, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the methods to help assess the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are generally two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is closer to one year. Or you can decide to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about 2 years to accomplish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, make certain that the Alabama colleges you are considering offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Huntsville AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent way to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They may also assist students establish 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 Service Provided? Finding that initial job can be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Huntsville AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indication of how much individual instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to monitor 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 Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full time, it's important that the school you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Huntsville AL, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, but you will also have to schedule any clinical training or internships that may be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Huntsville AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will furnish the right training. Whether you're goal is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to get the appropriate info on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can ultimately start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Huntsville AL.