How to Choose an Accredited Medical Assistant Degree Program near El Mirage Arizona
Now that you have decided to enter the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near El Mirage AZ, it's time to choose a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? A number of potential students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors as well. You might want to look into several online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you need to finish your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the schools you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have furnished a few questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Role of Medical Assistants
The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Primarily their function is to make sure that the El Mirage AZ hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions where they work operate efficiently. Based 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 tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health practitioners but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling 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 examinations and procedures
While medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Arizona law, some elect 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) made available by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Courses
Compared to most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many El Mirage AZ 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 2 choices provided for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about one year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at Arizona junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. 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.
Medical Assistant Online Programs
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are a good option for those who may not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good choice for Arizona students who continue to work full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, a number of online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized as well. Just remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be carried out in El Mirage AZ area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this mode of getting your training might be the ideal choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for individuals who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining a position after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible El Mirage AZ medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school options, you must choose which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. Once those decisions have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students confine their searches to the colleges that are nearest to El Mirage AZ with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you must look at when researching programs. To help you with that process, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to verify that the program you enroll in is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted organizations 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 one of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective El Mirage AZ employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Rate? Most of the Arizona accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to learn which of the certifications the colleges you are looking at 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 concentrating on that certification. Second, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can choose to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take approximately two years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, make certain that the Arizona colleges you are reviewing provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous medical assistant programs offer internship programs with El Mirage AZ area medical providers. They are a great means to obtain hands-on practical training and experience. They may also assist students develop relationships within the El Mirage healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Furnished? Getting that very first job can be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they have some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are researching provide job placement assistance in the El Mirage AZ area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If possible, try to attend a couple of classes before enrolling in a college to experience what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue working full time, it's essential that the school you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near El Mirage AZ, make certain that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also need to schedule any internships or clinical training that may be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family issues.
Choose the Best El Mirage AZ Medical Assistant Training
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you're goal 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 need to obtain the right information on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering training these days that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make sure that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can subsequently start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in El Mirage AZ.