How to Choose an Accredited CMA Program near Vestavia Hills 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 Vestavia Hills AL, it's time to select a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the ideal one? Many potential students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors also. You may choose to research some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a college you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that process, we have included several questions that you need to ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Function of a Medical Assistant
The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their role is to make sure that the Vestavia Hills AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions where they work run 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 providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and earn 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 Education
Unlike many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, many Vestavia Hills AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically 2 options available for a formal education. The first and shortest way 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 fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs provided at Alabama community and junior colleges in addition to vocational and technical 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 frequently have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Classes
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are a good choice for those who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good alternative for Alabama students who continue working full time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be minimized as well. Just remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be completed in Vestavia Hills AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to getting your education might be the ideal option for you. Between the online lessons and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for graduates who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it may also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Vestavia Hills AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. One of 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 sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can begin the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many prospective students confine their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Vestavia Hills AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you should look at when evaluating schools. To help you with that process, below are a few questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are many good reasons to make certain that the program you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 examination. Additionally, if you plan on 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 Vestavia Hills AL employers will not hire 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 schools design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must learn which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will want to choose a program focused on that certification. Next, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the means to help assess the quality of a college's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can opt to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require about 2 years to accomplish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, make sure that the Alabama colleges you are considering provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Vestavia Hills AL area medical care providers. They are a great method to receive hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students develop relationships within the Vestavia Hills medical community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Landing that initial job can be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Vestavia Hills AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indication of how much personal instruction you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a couple of classes before choosing a school to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it's important that the program you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, make certain that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will still have to schedule all internships or practical training that will be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Vestavia Hills AL Medical Assistant Training
It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant program that will provide the right training. Whether you're goal is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must get the right information on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering training these days that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, confirm that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can subsequently start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Vestavia Hills AL.