How to Choose an Accredited CMA Degree Program near Juneau Alaska
Once you have decided to join the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Juneau AK, it's time to choose a college that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the right one? Many future students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important factors as well. You might want to research some 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 complete your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are assessing. And to assist you with that task, we have furnished several questions that you need to ask each 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 kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Duties of a Medical Assistant
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their function is to make sure that the Juneau AK hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work operate successfully. 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 may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Providing basic support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Alaska law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and obtain 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 many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Juneau 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 obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about one year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs offered at Alaska junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical 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 often have a practical component involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are a good alternative for individuals who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good choice for Alaska students who continue working full time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, many online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Supplemental costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be reduced as well. Just remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be carried out in Juneau AK area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your training might be the right option for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for individuals who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in getting employment after graduation, but it might also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Many potential Juneau AK medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. After those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many students limit their searches to the schools that are closest to Juneau AK with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you must explore 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 considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are many good reasons to ensure that the college you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to 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 program is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Juneau AK employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the Alaska accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you must find out which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will need to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Next, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing 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 want to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the fastest 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 2 years to accomplish in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, verify that the Alaska schools you are looking at offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Juneau AK area health care providers. They are a great way to get hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also assist students build relationships within the Juneau healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Landing that first job may be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Juneau AK area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also suggests that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much individual attention you will receive during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a few classes before enrolling in a school to witness what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's essential that the school you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Juneau AK, verify that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also need to schedule all internships or clinical training that might be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Juneau AK Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant school that will furnish the proper training. Regardless if 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 obtain the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, confirm that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Juneau AK.