How to Choose an Accredited CMA Training School near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Now that you have decided to become a part of the gratifying profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Tuscaloosa AL, it's time to select a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the ideal one? Most future students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors also. You may want to look into some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the colleges you are assessing. And to assist you with that process, we have included some questions that you should ask all of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are offered.
The Role of a Medical Assistant
The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their duty is to make sure that the Tuscaloosa AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities where they work operate successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with giving 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 responsibilities 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 rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing basic support during exams and procedures
Although 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 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 Courses
Compared to many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, 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 program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially two options provided for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about one year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed 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 usually 2 year programs available at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a clinical element involving an internship with a local healthcare 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.
Medical Assistant Online Courses
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are an excellent alternative for students who might not have 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 pursuing their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Supplemental costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened also. Just bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Tuscaloosa AL area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of receiving your training might be the ideal option for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for graduates who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many potential Tuscaloosa AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to choose which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. Once those choices have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Tuscaloosa AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you should examine when assessing programs. To assist you with that process, following are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are several great reasons to make certain that the program you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the training 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 either of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of potential 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 create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to determine which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then of course you will want to select a program targeting that certification. Next, ask what the program'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 college's program. Of course schools with lower rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are basically two paths to obtaining 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 one year. Or you can elect to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about 2 years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, make sure that the Alabama colleges you are looking at provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Numerous medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Tuscaloosa AL area health care providers. They are a great means to receive hands-on practical training and experience. They can also assist students develop relationships within the Tuscaloosa healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Supplied? Landing that initial job can be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing offer 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 affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual attention you will receive during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a few classes before enrolling in a college to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full time, it's imperative that the school you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, make certain that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also have to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Tuscaloosa AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important 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 objective is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must obtain the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many schools providing training these days that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you plan 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 in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Tuscaloosa AL.