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Become a Medical Assistant Tuscaloosa AL 35401

How to Choose an Accredited Medical Assistant School Program near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa AL CMA holding medical chartOnce you have made a decision to join the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Tuscaloosa AL, it's time to select a college that will provide the proper training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the best one? Most prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues also. You might decide to look into several online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are assessing. And to assist you with that process, we have provided some questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.

Why Train to Become a CMA?

When prepping to interview for a Medical Assistant job near Tuscaloosa AL, it's advantageous to consider questions you might be asked. Among the things that recruiters typically ask Medical Assistant applicants is "What drove you to decide on health care as a career?" What the interviewer is hoping to discover is not just the private reasons you might have for becoming a CMA, but additionally what attributes and skills you possess that make you good at your profession. You will likely be asked questions relating primarily to medical assistance, along with a significant number of typical interview questions, so you need to organize a number of ideas about how you would like to answer them. Since there are numerous factors that go into selecting a career, you can respond to this fundamental question in a variety of ways. When formulating an answer, attempt to include the reasons the work appeals to you as well as the talents you possess that make you an outstanding healthcare provider and the leading choice for the job. Don't attempt to memorize a response, but write down a few concepts and talking points that pertain to your personal strengths and experiences. Reviewing sample answers can assist you to develop your own thoughts, and inspire ideas of what to include to impress the interviewer.

The Function of a Medical Assistant

Tuscaloosa AL CMA taking vital signs of patient

The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Basically their function is ensure that the Tuscaloosa AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work run efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the possible functions of a medical assistant include:

  • Completing insurance forms and filing claims
  • Setting and verifying appointments
  • Taking vital signs and weighing patients
  • Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
  • Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
  • Giving basic support during exams and procedures

While medical assistants can carry out almost any task they are qualified to under Alabama law, some prefer 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) made available by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

Medical Assistant Training

Tuscaloosa AL CMA greeting patientIn contrast to most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required 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 (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically two options available for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about one year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs available at Alabama junior and community colleges together with vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a practical component requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.

Certification Options for Medical Assistants

As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for those who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in attaining a job after graduation, but it can also help with initial salary negotiations. Some possible Tuscaloosa AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Programs

Tuscaloosa Alabama student attending medical assistant school onlineThere are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are a good choice for students who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good choice for Alabama students who continue to work full-time while earning their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be reduced also. But keep in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be carried out in Tuscaloosa AL area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your education may be the best choice for you. Between the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.

Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Programs

Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to choose which kind of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. After those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many prospective students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Tuscaloosa AL with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you must examine when researching programs. To assist you with that process, following are some questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your final selection.

Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are several great reasons to make sure that the college you choose 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 enroll in an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged agencies for accreditation are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If your program is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of potential 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 prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must determine which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to select a program focused on 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 low rates are ones that you will want to avoid.

Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can elect to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require about 2 years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, confirm that the Alabama colleges you are reviewing provide the kind of program you are interested in.

Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Tuscaloosa AL area medical care providers. They are a great way to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also assist students build relationships within the Tuscaloosa medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Support Provided? Finding that first job may be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating offer 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 students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also suggests that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in positions.

How Big are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much individual instruction you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a couple of classes before choosing a program to witness what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.

Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it's important that the college you select offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will also have to schedule all internships or practical training that might be required. Additionally, find out 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 Program

It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Whether you're goal is to launch a career in medical 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 so many colleges providing training these days that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, confirm that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important 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 made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can subsequently begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Tuscaloosa AL.