How to Select the Right CMA Course near Flagstaff Arizona
Once you have made a decision to join the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Flagstaff AZ, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the right one? A number of potential students begin 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 extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues as well. You might decide to research several online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are assessing. And to help you with that process, we have included some questions that you need to ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are available.
The Job of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their job is to make sure that the Flagstaff AZ hospitals, clinics and other medical care facilities where they work operate 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 tasked with providing direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the possible functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Arizona 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) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Courses
Compared to most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Flagstaff AZ health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially two options provided for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain 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 obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs provided at Arizona community and junior colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more extensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a clinical component involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are an excellent choice for individuals who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good alternative for Arizona students who continue working full time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Supplemental expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be reduced as well. Just keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be performed in Flagstaff AZ area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this mode of getting your education may be the ideal option for you. With the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for those who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in getting a job after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. Some possible Flagstaff AZ medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to take the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school options, you must choose which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students restrict their searches to the colleges that are closest to Flagstaff AZ with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you should look at when assessing programs. To help you with that task, below are some questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are several great reasons to make certain that the school you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged agencies 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 eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Flagstaff AZ employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? Most of the Arizona accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to learn which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Next, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Naturally programs with low rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to one year. Or you can choose to acquire an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately two years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, confirm that the Arizona schools you are considering provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Flagstaff AZ area healthcare providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on practical experience and training. They can also assist students build relationships within the Flagstaff health care community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Supplied? Landing that initial job may be a daunting task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Flagstaff AZ area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size can be an indication of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before enrolling in a school to observe what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program 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 need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Flagstaff AZ, make certain that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will still have to schedule all internships or practical training that might be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Flagstaff AZ Medical Assistant Program
It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant program that will provide the proper training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must get the appropriate information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, make certain that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can subsequently begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Flagstaff AZ.