How to Enroll In an Accredited CMA Program near Anchorage Alaska
Once you have decided to enter the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Anchorage AK, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately pick the ideal one? A number of prospective students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors as well. You might choose to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must complete your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the schools you are examining. And to help you with that task, we have furnished several questions that you should ask all of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The function of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Primarily their function is ensure that the Anchorage AK hospitals, clinics and other medical care centers where they work run efficiently. 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 responsible for providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners 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
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may carry out almost any task they are qualified to under Alaska law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and attain certification. Two of the choices available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Courses
In contrast to most other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Anchorage AK health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally two options provided for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about 1 year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to earn an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs available at Alaska junior and community colleges together with 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 courses. They frequently have a clinical component involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are a good alternative for those who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good solution for Alaska students who continue to work full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Supplemental costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be lessened as well. Just remember that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be carried out in Anchorage AK area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your education might be the right choice for you. Between the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent option for those who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in getting employment after graduation, but it might also enhance initial salary negotiations. Some potential Anchorage AK medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for 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 discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school options, you need to decide which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. Once those decisions have been made, you can begin the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to Anchorage AK with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should examine when assessing programs. To assist you with that process, below are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many great reasons to ensure that the program 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 must complete an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, 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 design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must determine which of the certifications the colleges 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 concentrating on 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 assess the quality of a college's program. Obviously programs with lower rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Available? As we covered earlier, there are generally two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and obtain 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 choose to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require about two years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, make certain that the Alaska colleges you are looking at offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Anchorage AK area health care providers. They are a great method to get hands-on practical experience and training. They can also help students build relationships within the Anchorage medical community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Service Offered? Finding that initial job may be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Anchorage AK area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal attention you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a few classes before enrolling in a program to experience what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work full time, it's imperative that the program you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Anchorage AK, make certain that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also have to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Anchorage AK Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant school that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to acquire the appropriate information on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges offering training these days that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, verify that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on 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, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can subsequently start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Anchorage AK.