How to Choose an Accredited Medical Assistant Degree Program near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to join the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Vestavia Hills AL, it's time to select a college that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? Many future students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors as well. You may decide to look into several 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 carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have provided several questions that you need to ask all of the colleges on your short 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 offered.
The Function of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Primarily their job is to make sure that the Vestavia Hills AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions where they work operate successfully. Based on the type or size of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with giving direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other health professionals but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the possible responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Giving general support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are authorized to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the choices 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 Education
In contrast to most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Vestavia Hills 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 generally 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about a year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs offered at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a clinical 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 related field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good idea for graduates who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it may also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Vestavia Hills AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are an excellent choice for individuals who may not have 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 to work full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be lessened as well. Just keep in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be carried out in Vestavia Hills 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 choice for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to choose which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. After those choices have been made, you can begin the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many potential students confine their searches to the schools that are nearest to Vestavia Hills AL with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you must explore when evaluating programs. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you need to 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 college you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved agencies for accreditation are the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). If your school is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Vestavia Hills AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to find out which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will want to select a program targeting that certification. Second, find out 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 evaluate the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with lower rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to accomplish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the Alabama colleges you are reviewing provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? Numerous medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Vestavia Hills AL area medical providers. They are a great means to receive hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also assist students build relationships within the Vestavia Hills health care community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Landing that initial job may be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Vestavia Hills AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size can be an indication of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a couple of classes before enrolling in a school to observe what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue working on a full time basis, it's essential that the school you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, make sure that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will still need to schedule any clinical training or internships that will be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Vestavia Hills AL Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Whether you're objective is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must obtain the right information on available programs before making your decision. There are so many schools providing training these days that you can make a decision based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, verify that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can subsequently begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Vestavia Hills AL.