How to Select the Right Medical Assistant Program near Montgomery 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 Montgomery AL, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently pick the best one? Most prospective students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors as well. You might decide to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that process, we have furnished a few questions that you should ask each 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 kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Function of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their duty is ensure that the Montgomery AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Supplying general support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are authorized to under Alabama law, some choose 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) made available by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training
In contrast to most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Montgomery 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 generally 2 choices offered for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs generally take about a year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed 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 usually 2 year programs provided at Alabama junior and community colleges together with technical and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are a good option for individuals who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good choice for Alabama students who continue working full-time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, many online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be lessened as well. Just keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be carried out in Montgomery AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this mode of getting your training may be the ideal choice for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for graduates who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining a position after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Montgomery AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within thirty 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.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school options, you have to decide which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. Once those selections have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Montgomery 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 factors that you need to examine when assessing schools. To help you with that task, following are some questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are many great reasons to ensure that the college you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become 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 plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Montgomery AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passing Rate? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to determine which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then of course you will want to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Next, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Obviously programs with low rates are ones that you will want to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can elect to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take approximately two years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, confirm that the Alabama schools you are considering provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Montgomery AL area medical providers. They are an excellent way to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Montgomery healthcare community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Finding that initial job can be a challenging undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Montgomery AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a couple of classes before choosing a school to observe 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 on a full time basis, it's essential that the school you enroll in offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Montgomery AL, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will still have to schedule any clinical training or internships that might be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family issues.
Enroll in the Best Montgomery AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant program that will furnish the proper training. Whether you're planning to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools offering training these days that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, confirm that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Montgomery AL.