How to Choose the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Now that you have decided to enter the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Tuscaloosa AL, it's time to choose a college that will provide the proper training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently enroll in the ideal one? A number of prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You may want to take a look at a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a program you need to finish your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the schools you are reviewing. And to assist 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 role of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
The Function of a Medical Assistant
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Primarily their function is to make sure that the Tuscaloosa AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health practitioners but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the possible responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some prefer to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options 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 Training Courses
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Tuscaloosa AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally 2 options provided for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about one year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs available at Alabama community and junior colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for graduates who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it might also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of potential Tuscaloosa AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Classes
There are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are an excellent alternative for students who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good solution for Alabama students who continue working full-time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Supplemental costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be reduced as well. Just remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be completed in Tuscaloosa AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of receiving your training may be the right choice for you. Between the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to examining your medical assistant school options, you need to determine which type of credential you want to earn, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. Once those decisions have been made, you can begin the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many students limit their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Tuscaloosa AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you need to examine when assessing schools. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many great reasons to make sure that the school you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming 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 exam. Also, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Tuscaloosa AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will want to enroll in a program concentrating on that certification. Second, ask what the program'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. Naturally programs with low rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are basically two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can opt to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take about two years to accomplish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, confirm that the Alabama schools you are considering provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Tuscaloosa AL area medical providers. They are an excellent means to get hands-on practical training and experience. They may also help students develop relationships within the Tuscaloosa health care community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Getting that initial job can be a difficult task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify 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 higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size can be an indication of how much personal instruction you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before enrolling in a program to experience what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full-time, it's important that the program you enroll in offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will also have to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Tuscaloosa AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant school that will furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in health 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 prior to making your decision. There are so many colleges offering training nowadays 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 pick is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can subsequently begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Tuscaloosa AL.