How to Enroll In the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program near Anchorage Alaska
Once you have decided to become a part of the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Anchorage AK, it's time to select a school that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? Most potential students start by checking out 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 very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues as well. You might choose to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The main point is that before you select a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are examining. And to assist you with that process, we have provided a few questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Primarily their job is to make sure that the Anchorage AK clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers where they work operate successfully. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants may carry out almost any duty they are authorized to under Alaska law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the choices offered 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
In contrast to most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, many Anchorage AK health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally 2 options provided for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at Alaska junior and community colleges together with technical and vocational schools. They are more expansive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a practical component involving an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for individuals who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining a job after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. Some possible 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 respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to take 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, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Colleges
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good solution for Alaska students who continue working full time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Supplemental costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be reduced also. Just keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be completed in Anchorage AK area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your training may be the right option for you. Between the online lessons and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to choose which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. Once those selections have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students limit their searches to the schools that are closest to Anchorage AK with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should explore when assessing schools. To assist you with that process, following are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many good reasons to ensure that the college you enroll in is accredited. To start 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 must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 school is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, 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 Program's Passing Rate? The majority of Alaska accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to determine which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will want to select a program concentrating on 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 ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, 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, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately 2 years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, make sure that the Alaska colleges you are reviewing provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Anchorage AK area health care providers. They are an excellent method to get hands-on practical experience and training. They can also help students build relationships within the Anchorage medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Landing that very first job can be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain some assistance 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 college has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much individual instruction you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before enrolling in a program to witness what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full-time, it's essential that the program you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Anchorage AK, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will still have to schedule all internships or clinical training that might be required. Additionally, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Anchorage AK Medical Assistant Program
It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will furnish the appropriate training. Whether you're goal is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must obtain the right information 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 upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make certain that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Anchorage AK.