How to Choose an Accredited CMA Degree Program near Chandler Arizona
Now that you have decided to enter the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Chandler AZ, it's time to select a college that will provide the proper training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? A number of future students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors also. You may want to look into some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a college you need to finish your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are assessing. And to assist you with that process, we have included several questions that you need to ask all of the colleges 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 type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Primarily their function is to make sure that the Chandler AZ hospitals, clinics and other healthcare centers where they work run successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving general support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Arizona law, some prefer to specialize in a particular area and attain 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 Training
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Chandler AZ health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally two options offered for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about a year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs provided at Arizona community and junior colleges in addition to technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a practical component involving an internship with a local healthcare 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.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good option for individuals who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in getting a position after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Some possible Chandler AZ medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. 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, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good choice for Arizona students who continue working full time while earning their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized as well. Just remember that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be performed in Chandler AZ area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your training might be the right choice for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to determine which type of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. As soon as those decisions have been made, you can begin the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many prospective students restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Chandler AZ with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you should look at when researching programs. To assist you with that process, below are a few questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many good reasons to confirm that the school you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you must complete 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 agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many prospective Chandler AZ employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Percentage? The majority of Arizona accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will need to choose a program focused on that certification. Second, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course programs with low rates are ones that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately 2 years to finish in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the Arizona colleges you are looking at offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? Numerous medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Chandler AZ area health care providers. They are an excellent way to receive hands-on practical training and experience. They may also assist students establish relationships within the Chandler health care community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Landing that very first job may be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Chandler AZ area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Small 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 attend a couple of classes before choosing a school to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full-time, it's essential that the college you enroll in provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Chandler AZ, make certain that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, but you will still have to schedule all internships or clinical training that might be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Best Chandler AZ Medical Assistant Training
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant program that will provide the right training. Whether you're objective is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to acquire the right information on available programs before making your decision. There are so many schools offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make certain that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. 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, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can ultimately start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Chandler AZ.