How to Choose an Accredited Medical Assistant Program near Flagstaff Arizona
Now that you have decided to enter the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Flagstaff AZ, it's time to choose a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately pick the ideal one? Many prospective students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors as well. You might choose to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you must carry out your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the colleges you are evaluating. And to assist you with that task, we have furnished a few questions that you need to ask all 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 credentials and training that are available.
The Function of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Basically their function is ensure that the Flagstaff AZ clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work run efficiently. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the possible responsibilities 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 specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants may perform almost any task they are authorized to under Arizona law, some prefer to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the choices available 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 Programs
Compared to many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Flagstaff AZ health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally two choices available for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about one year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually 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 general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a clinical component involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for those who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in getting a job after graduation, but it can also help with initial salary negotiations. Some possible Flagstaff AZ medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to apply for the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online as well. They are a good alternative for students who might not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good choice for Arizona students who continue working full time while earning their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be lessened also. Just keep in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be completed in Flagstaff AZ area medical facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your education might be the right option for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school options, you must choose which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. Once those choices have been made, you can begin the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some potential students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to Flagstaff AZ with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you need to explore when researching programs. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to ensure that the school you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 school is not accredited by one 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 aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many potential Flagstaff AZ employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passing Rate? The majority of Arizona accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to learn which of the certifications the schools you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to choose 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 means to help assess the quality of a college's program. Obviously schools with low rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can decide to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require approximately 2 years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, make certain that the Arizona colleges you are considering offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Flagstaff AZ area healthcare providers. They are a great way to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They may also help students build relationships within the Flagstaff medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Getting that initial job may be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Flagstaff AZ area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal attention you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If possible, try to monitor a couple of classes before choosing a college to witness what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full-time, it's essential that the college you enroll in provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Flagstaff AZ, make certain that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will also have to schedule any internships or clinical training that will be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Flagstaff AZ Medical Assistant Program
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will provide the proper training. Regardless if you're planning to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must acquire the right information on available programs prior to 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 covered in this article, verify that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can subsequently begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Flagstaff AZ.