How to Find the Right Medical Assistant Training School near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to become a part of the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Tuscaloosa AL, it's time to choose a school that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Many potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues also. You might choose to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that process, we have included some questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Function of Medical Assistants
The job of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Primarily their job is to make sure that the Tuscaloosa AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers where they work run efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying basic support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants may carry out almost any task they are authorized to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and attain certification. Two of the options offered 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 Courses
Unlike most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain 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 basically 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about one year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to earn an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs provided at Alabama community and junior colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a clinical element involving an internship with a local healthcare 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.
Medical Assistant Online Colleges
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online also. They are an excellent choice for those who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good solution for Alabama students who continue working full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be minimized as well. But bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be carried out in Tuscaloosa AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this method of receiving your education might be the best choice for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent option for graduates who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in securing a job after graduation, but it might also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Tuscaloosa AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and arguably 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 exam, 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 CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to decide which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many prospective students limit their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Tuscaloosa AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you must look at when evaluating programs. To assist you with that process, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to verify that the college you select is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you must complete 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 school is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Tuscaloosa AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passing Rate? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant schools develop 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 considering are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will want to choose a program targeting that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Obviously schools with lower rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can select 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 opt to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require approximately two years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the Alabama colleges you are looking at offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Tuscaloosa AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent means to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They can also assist students build relationships within the Tuscaloosa healthcare community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Supplied? Finding that very first job can be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Tuscaloosa AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indication of how much personal attention you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to attend a couple of classes before choosing a program to observe what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's essential that the school you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will still need to schedule all clinical training or internships that may be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Best Tuscaloosa AL Medical Assistant Program
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will furnish the proper training. Regardless if you're goal is 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 get 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 addressed in this article, verify that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. 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 supplied so you can evaluate 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.