How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant Course near Anchorage Alaska
Now that you have decided to enter the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Anchorage AK, it's time to select a college that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately pick the right one? Most potential students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues also. You may decide to research a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative 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 pertinent qualifications of the schools you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have furnished several questions that you need to ask all of the schools 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 type of credentials and training that are available.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their job is ensure that the Anchorage AK hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work run efficiently. Based 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 nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Supplying basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Alaska law, some choose 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) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Courses
Unlike most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Anchorage AK health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about one year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs provided at Alaska community and junior colleges together with vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a practical element 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 Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good choice for individuals who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Many potential Anchorage AK medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. 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 take the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Schools
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are a good alternative for those who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good alternative for Alaska students who continue to work full-time while earning their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, a number of online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Supplemental costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized also. But remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be completed in Anchorage AK area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your training may be the best choice for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to decide which kind of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. After those decisions have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many students restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Anchorage AK with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should examine when assessing programs. To assist you with that task, below are a few questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to ensure that the college you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to 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 one of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Anchorage AK employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passage Percentage? The majority of Alaska accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you must determine which of the certifications the schools you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to choose a program focused on that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and obtain 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 decide to obtain an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require about two years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, verify that the Alaska schools you are reviewing provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Anchorage AK area medical care providers. They are a great means to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They may also help students establish relationships within the Anchorage health care community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Getting that initial job can be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Anchorage AK area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? Class size can be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a few classes before selecting a program to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full time, it's imperative that the school you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near Anchorage AK, verify that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will also need to schedule any internships or clinical training that will be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Anchorage AK Medical Assistant Program
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will provide 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 must acquire the appropriate info on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of schools providing training these days that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, verify that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided 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 best program you can subsequently begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Anchorage AK.