How to Choose an Accredited CMA Degree Program near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Tuscaloosa AL, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Most prospective students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors also. You may want to research some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are reviewing. And to assist you with that process, we have included some questions that you need to ask each 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 credentials and training that are offered.
The Role of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Basically their role is ensure that the Tuscaloosa AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the type or size of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health practitioners but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the possible functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some opt 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) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Courses
In contrast to many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Tuscaloosa 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 generally two choices available for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about one year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are created 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 normally two year programs available at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as technical 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 courses. They usually have a clinical element involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for individuals who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in securing employment after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Tuscaloosa AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are a good choice for those who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good option for Alabama students who continue to work full-time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be reduced as well. Just bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be performed in Tuscaloosa AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this method of getting your training may be the best option for you. Between the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to choose which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. After those selections have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students limit their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Tuscaloosa AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to examine when researching schools. To help you with that process, following are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to ensure that the college you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the accepted agencies 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 qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Tuscaloosa AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passing Percentage? The majority of Alabama accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you must learn which of the certifications the schools you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will need to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Second, ask 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 assess the quality of a school's program. Of course schools with low rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take about 2 years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, make certain that the Alabama colleges you are reviewing offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Tuscaloosa AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent method to get hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the Tuscaloosa healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Landing that first job may be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Tuscaloosa AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, 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 Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much individual instruction you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before choosing a school to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue working full-time, it's important that the school you enroll in provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, make certain that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will also need to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Tuscaloosa AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will furnish the proper training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you need to acquire the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering 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 a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Tuscaloosa AL.