How to Select an Accredited CMA School Program near Anchorage Alaska
Once you have decided to become a part of the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Anchorage AK, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? Many potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues as well. You may want to look into some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the schools you are examining. And to assist you with that task, we have provided several questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
Why Train to Be a CMA?When prepping to interview for a Medical Assistant position near Anchorage AK, it's a good idea to consider questions you could be asked. Among the questions that recruiters typically ask Medical Assistant candidates is "What compelled you to choose health care as a career?" What the interviewer is attempting to learn is not just the personal reasons you might have for being a CMA, but also what characteristics and skills you possess that make you exceptional at your profession. You will undoubtedly be asked questions relating primarily to medical assistance, in addition to a certain number of standard interview questions, so you should prepare a number of ideas about how you would like to address them. Considering there are several variables that go into selecting a career, you can answer this primary question in a number of ways. When preparing an answer, try to include the reasons the work interests you in addition to the talents you possess that make you an exceptional healthcare provider and the best choice for the job. Don't try to memorize an answer, but write down some ideas and anecdotes that relate to your own strengths and experiences. Reviewing sample responses can help you to formulate your own thoughts, and provide ideas of what to discuss to impress the interviewer.
The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Essentially their role is to make sure that the Anchorage AK hospitals, clinics and other medical care centers where they work run efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may 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
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Alaska law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and earn 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 Courses
Compared to most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Anchorage AK health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally two choices available 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 1 year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals 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 provided at Alaska junior and community colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good option for graduates who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in attaining employment after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Anchorage AK medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. Among 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 apply for the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available also, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online also. They are an excellent alternative for students who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good option for Alaska 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 traditional on campus options. Ancillary expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be lessened also. But bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be carried out in Anchorage AK area medical facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your training may be the best option for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school options, you have to decide which type of credential you would like to earn, 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 process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Anchorage AK with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional factors that you should look at when evaluating schools. To help you with that task, following are some questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many great reasons to verify that the college you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the training 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 program is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many prospective Anchorage AK employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passage Rate? Most of the Alaska accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to learn which of the certifications the programs you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to choose a program focused on that certification. Next, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is one of the means to help assess the quality of a college's program. Of course programs with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can choose to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to complete in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, verify that the Alaska colleges you are looking at provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? A large number of medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Anchorage AK area health care providers. They are a great method to get hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the Anchorage medical community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Supplied? Getting that very first job may be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Anchorage AK area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to instructors and face to face interaction. If practical, try to monitor a couple of classes before enrolling in a program to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue working on a full time basis, it's important that the program you enroll in provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Anchorage AK, make sure that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will still have to schedule all internships or practical training that might be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Best Anchorage AK Medical Assistant Program
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you're planning to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must obtain the appropriate info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can subsequently start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Anchorage AK.