How to Enroll In the Right CMA School near Fairbanks Alaska
Now that you have decided to enter the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Fairbanks AK, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the best one? Most future 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 cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues as well. You might decide to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have included several questions that you need to ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are available.
The Job of a Medical Assistant
The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Basically their job is ensure that the Fairbanks AK clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work run efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying 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 exams and procedures
Although medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are authorized 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) made available by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Education
Compared to most other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Fairbanks AK health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially two choices offered for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about a year to finish, some 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 alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs available at Alaska junior and community colleges as well as trade 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 courses. They frequently have a clinical element requiring 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 related field.
Medical Assistant Online Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are an excellent alternative for those who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good choice for Alaska students who continue to work full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be reduced as well. But keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be completed in Fairbanks AK area health care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of getting your training may be the right choice for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for graduates who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in securing a position after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Fairbanks AK medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school options, you must choose which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, some prospective students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to Fairbanks AK with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you should look at when assessing programs. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are several good reasons to ensure that the program you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved organizations for accreditation are the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). If your school is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many potential Fairbanks AK employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Percentage? Most of the Alaska accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are generally two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in 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 one year. Or you can opt to obtain an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will take about two years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, verify that the Alaska schools you are looking at provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Fairbanks AK area medical care providers. They are an excellent way to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also assist students establish relationships within the Fairbanks health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Supplied? Landing that initial job may be a challenging undertaking 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 Fairbanks 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 an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also suggests that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a program to see what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's important that the college you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, 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 need to schedule any internships or practical training that might be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Fairbanks AK Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will furnish the appropriate training. Whether you're objective is to begin 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 prior to making your decision. There are so many colleges providing training these days that you can make a selection based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can subsequently begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Fairbanks AK.