How to Pick the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program near Fairbanks Alaska
Once you have decided to enter the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Fairbanks AK, it's time to select a school that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? A number of prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You might want to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are reviewing. And to assist you with that task, we have furnished a few questions that you should ask each of the schools on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are offered.
The Duties of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their duty is to make sure that the Fairbanks AK hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work run successfully. Based on the size or type of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other health practitioners but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Alaska law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the options 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
Compared to many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Fairbanks AK health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs available at Alaska junior and community colleges together with technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They often have a practical element involving an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good alternative for Alaska students who continue working full time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be reduced as well. But bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be carried out in Fairbanks AK area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your education may be the best choice for you. With the online classes and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for graduates who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in securing a job after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible Fairbanks AK medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to take the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to reviewing 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 begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Fairbanks AK with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should explore when evaluating schools. To assist you with that process, below are a few 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 several good reasons to make sure that the school you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 program is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Fairbanks AK employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
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 examinations. To start with, you must find out which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to choose a program focused on that certification. Next, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the methods to help assess the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with low rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can choose to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take about two years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the Alaska colleges you are looking at provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Fairbanks AK area medical care providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They can also help students establish relationships within the Fairbanks health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Supplied? Landing that first job may be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Fairbanks AK area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much individual attention you will get throughout 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 convenient, try to sit in on a few classes before selecting a program to see 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 working full time, it's important that the program you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, confirm that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will still need to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Fairbanks AK Medical Assistant Training
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you're planning to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must get the right info on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make certain that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Fairbanks AK.