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How to Select the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program near Prattville Alabama

Prattville AL medical assistant with medical chartOnce you have decided to enter the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Prattville AL, it's time to select a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently enroll in the best one? A number of potential students begin by researching 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 factors as well. You might choose to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The main point is that before you select a program you must complete your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the schools you are assessing. And to assist you with that task, we have provided a few questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.

The Role of a Medical Assistant

Prattville AL CMA taking vital signs of patient

The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Primarily their job is to make sure that the Prattville AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work run successfully. Depending 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 giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:

  • Completing insurance forms and filing claims
  • Scheduling and confirming appointments
  • Taking vital signs and weighing patients
  • Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
  • Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
  • Providing general support during exams and procedures

Even though medical assistants may perform almost any task they are authorized to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the choices 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 Programs

Prattville AL CMA opening door for patient on crutchesUnlike many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Prattville AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 options available for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about one year to complete, a few 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 option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs available at Alabama community and junior colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a practical component involving an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are routinely 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 Programs for Medical Assistants

As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent option for those who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in securing a job after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible Prattville AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. One of 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). In order to sit for the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Schools

Prattville AL woman attending medical assistant classes onlineThere are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are a good choice for students who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good alternative for Alabama students who continue working full-time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Supplemental costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be minimized as well. But bear in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be carried out in Prattville AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this method of getting your training may be the right choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.

Points to Ask Medical Assistant Programs

Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to choose which kind of credential you want 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, some students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to Prattville AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you should explore when assessing schools. To assist 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 Program Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to confirm that the school you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 either of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many prospective Prattville AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.

What is the Program's Passage Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must learn which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Second, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with low rates are ones that you will want to avoid.

Which Credentials are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will take about 2 years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, verify that the Alabama colleges you are considering provide the type of program you are interested in.

Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Prattville AL area health care providers. They are a great way to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also assist students build relationships within the Prattville medical community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.

Is Job Placement Assistance Supplied? Finding that first job can be a difficult task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Prattville AL area and ask 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 wide network of employers to help place students in positions.

How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a few classes before choosing a program to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.

Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work full-time, it's essential that the program you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Prattville AL, make sure that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, but you will still have to schedule all internships or clinical training that may be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family issues.

Choose the Best Prattville AL Medical Assistant Program

It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you're objective is 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 get the right info on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, verify that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as 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, make sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Prattville AL.