How to Select an Accredited Medical Assistant Degree Program near Maricopa Arizona
Now that you have decided to become a part of the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Maricopa AZ, it's time to select a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately pick the ideal one? Many prospective students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues also. You may want to take a look at a few 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 finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the colleges you are evaluating. And to assist you with that process, we have provided several questions that you should ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are offered.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their job is to make sure that the Maricopa AZ clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work run successfully. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other health practitioners but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants may carry out almost any activity they are qualified to under Arizona law, some prefer 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) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Programs
In contrast to many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Maricopa AZ health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally two choices available 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 1 year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs offered at Arizona junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They usually have a clinical component 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.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good idea for graduates who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it may also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some possible Maricopa AZ medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are an excellent alternative for those who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good option for Arizona students who continue working full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, a number of online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be minimized also. Just bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be completed in Maricopa AZ area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your training might be the ideal option for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school options, you have to determine which type of credential you want to earn, 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 process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some prospective students limit their searches to the schools that are closest to Maricopa AZ with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you must examine when researching schools. To help you with that process, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to make certain that the program you select is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted organizations 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 either of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many prospective Maricopa AZ employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? The majority of Arizona accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to find out which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will want to select a program focused on that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are generally two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is about 1 year. Or you can opt to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take about 2 years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, make sure that the Arizona colleges you are considering provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Maricopa AZ area medical care providers. They are an excellent way to obtain hands-on practical training and experience. They may also help students establish relationships within the Maricopa health care community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Furnished? Landing that first job can be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Maricopa AZ area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much personal attention you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to monitor a couple of classes before selecting a college to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working on a full time basis, it's imperative that the college you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Maricopa AZ, make sure that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will also have to schedule any internships or practical training that may be required. Also, 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 Maricopa AZ Medical Assistant Training
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you're objective is to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must obtain the right info on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many colleges providing training these days that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can ultimately start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Maricopa AZ.