How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant Training Program near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Once you have decided to enter the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Vestavia Hills AL, it's time to select a college that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently pick the right one? Most potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors as well. You may choose to research some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The main point is that before you select a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have provided several questions that you should ask each of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.
The Function of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Primarily their role is to make sure that the Vestavia Hills AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers 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 providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving general support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can perform almost any task they are qualified to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and obtain 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 Programs
In contrast to many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated 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 choices provided for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about a year to complete, a few 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 option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs available at Alabama community and junior colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They often have a practical component requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Classes
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are an excellent option for individuals who might not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good solution for Alabama students who continue to work full time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, many online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be lessened as well. But remember that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be completed in Vestavia Hills AL area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your education might be the ideal choice for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent idea for graduates who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting a position after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many possible Vestavia Hills AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school options, you have to decide which type of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. As soon as those decisions have been made, you can start the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to Vestavia Hills AL with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you must look at when evaluating programs. To assist you with that process, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to make sure that the college you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 eligible 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 finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Vestavia Hills 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 colleges create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to find out which of the certifications the programs you are considering 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, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can opt 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 elect to enroll in, confirm that the Alabama colleges you are looking at offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? Many medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Vestavia Hills AL area healthcare providers. They are a great way to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also assist students build relationships within the Vestavia Hills health care community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Supplied? Getting that very first job can be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little 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 school has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will receive during 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 convenient, try to monitor a few classes before choosing a school to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue working full-time, it's imperative that the college you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, make certain that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will also have to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Vestavia Hills AL Medical Assistant Training
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Regardless if 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 acquire the appropriate info on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make sure that the program you select is accredited by a recognized 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 on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can subsequently start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Vestavia Hills AL.