How to Pick the Best Medical Assistant Program near Prattville Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to join the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Prattville AL, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Most prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors as well. You may decide to take a look at a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you must carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are examining. And to assist you with that task, we have provided some questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
The Duties of a Medical Assistant
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Basically their job is to make sure that the Prattville AL hospitals, clinics and other medical care centers where they work run successfully. Depending on the type or size of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals 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 submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any activity they are authorized to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and earn certification. Two of the choices 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 Training Courses
Unlike many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Prattville AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about 1 year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs provided at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four 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 requirement, but is a good idea for individuals who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible Prattville AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are a good alternative for students who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good alternative for Alabama students who continue working full time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be minimized as well. Just bear in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be performed in Prattville AL area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your education might be the best option for you. Between the online lessons and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Topics 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 attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many prospective students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to Prattville AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you need to explore when researching schools. To assist you with that task, following are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many great reasons to make certain that the program you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted organizations for accreditation are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If your program is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many prospective Prattville AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Percentage? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you must find out which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to choose a program targeting that certification. Second, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally programs with low rates are ones that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can select 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 about one year. Or you can opt to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take approximately two years to accomplish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you elect to pursue, confirm that the Alabama schools you are considering provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Prattville AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on practical training and experience. They can also assist students build relationships within the Prattville medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Getting that first job can be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Prattville AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a large network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size can be an indication of how much personal instruction you will get throughout your training. Small 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 possible, try to monitor a few classes before selecting a school to observe what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full-time, it's important that the college you select provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Prattville 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 also need to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Prattville AL Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will provide the proper training. Whether you're goal is to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the appropriate info on available programs before making your decision. There are so many schools providing training these days that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan 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, be sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can subsequently begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Prattville AL.