How to Enroll In the Best Medical Assistant School 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 provide the appropriate training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? Most potential students start 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 critical factors as well. You may choose to look into several online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you must complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are examining. And to help you with that task, we have included a few questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Primarily their job is ensure that the Prattville AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work operate efficiently. Based 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 tasked with providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Giving general support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants may perform almost any task they are qualified to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the choices 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
Compared to many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, 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 school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 options provided for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about 1 year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs provided at Alabama junior and community colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. 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.
Medical Assistant Online Schools
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered 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 attended at home. This is a particularly good choice for Alabama students who continue working full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be reduced as well. Just bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be performed in Prattville AL area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your education might be the ideal choice for you. Between the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for those who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in securing a position after graduation, but it might also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Prattville AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. 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 be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to choose which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can begin the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of students confine their searches to the schools that are nearest to Prattville AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should examine when evaluating programs. To help you with that process, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several great reasons to verify that the college you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 one of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Also, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Prattville AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School's Passing Rate? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prep 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 to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will need to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Second, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course programs with low rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can decide to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require about 2 years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, make certain that the Alabama schools you are considering offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? A large number of medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Prattville AL area medical providers. They are an excellent way to receive hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also assist students establish relationships within the Prattville healthcare community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Finding that very first job can be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Prattville AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indication of how much personal instruction you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a program to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full time, it's imperative that the college you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Prattville AL, make sure that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will still need to schedule all internships or clinical training that might be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of work, illness or family issues.
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 furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you're goal is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to obtain the right info on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, make sure that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Prattville AL.