How to Pick the Right CMA School Program near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Once you have made a decision to join the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Tuscaloosa AL, it's time to select a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Most potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues also. You may want to look into several online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have included several questions that you need to ask each of the colleges 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 type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Primarily their role is to make sure that the Tuscaloosa AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers where they work operate 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 providing direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and attain certification. Two of the options available 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
In contrast to most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Tuscaloosa AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 options provided for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about a year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs offered at Alabama community and junior colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a practical element requiring an internship with a local medical facility. 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 similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online as well. They are a good choice for individuals who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good choice for Alabama students who continue working full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Supplemental expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be lessened as well. But remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be performed in Tuscaloosa AL area medical facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your training might be the right option for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for graduates who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining employment after graduation, but it may also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Tuscaloosa AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered also, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to decide which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. Once those selections have been made, you can begin the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to Tuscaloosa AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you need to examine when evaluating programs. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to verify that the school you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 school is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally 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 program.
What is the School's Passage Rate? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to find out which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Provided? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is about one 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 vocational school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, make sure that the Alabama colleges you are considering offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? A large number of medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Tuscaloosa AL area health care providers. They are an excellent way to receive hands-on practical training and experience. They may also assist students establish relationships within the Tuscaloosa health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Finding that initial job can be a challenging undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Tuscaloosa AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much individual instruction you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a couple of classes before selecting a school to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it's important that the school you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, make certain that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will still have 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 illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Best Tuscaloosa AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant program that will provide the proper training. Regardless if you're goal is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of schools providing training these days that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make sure that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind 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 provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can ultimately start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Tuscaloosa AL.