How to Select the Best Medical Assistant School near Phoenix Arizona
Once you have decided to enter the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Phoenix AZ, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? A number of potential students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues also. You might decide to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are examining. And to assist you with that process, we have furnished a few questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk 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. Primarily their duty is to make sure that the Phoenix AZ hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the potential duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants can perform almost any activity they are authorized 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) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Programs
Compared to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Phoenix AZ health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially two choices provided for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs generally take about a year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed 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 two year programs provided at Arizona junior and community colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a clinical component involving an internship with a local healthcare practice. 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 Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent option for graduates who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in getting a position after graduation, but it may also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Phoenix AZ medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to take the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are a good alternative for those who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good option for Arizona students who continue working full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, many online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized also. Just keep in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be completed in Phoenix AZ area health care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your education may be the best option for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to choose which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. After those selections have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some potential students limit their searches to the schools that are closest to Phoenix AZ with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you must explore when assessing programs. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are several good reasons to make certain that the college you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the training 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 acknowledged 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 program is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Phoenix AZ employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passage Percentage? The majority of Arizona accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you must find out which of the certifications the colleges you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to select a program concentrating on that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course schools with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Available? As we covered earlier, there are basically two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can opt to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about 2 years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, make certain that the Arizona colleges you are reviewing offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Phoenix AZ area health care providers. They are a great method to get hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also help students develop relationships within the Phoenix medical community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Supplied? Finding that first job can be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Phoenix 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 an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much personal attention you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to monitor a few classes before choosing a school to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work full time, it's important that the college you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Phoenix AZ, make certain that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will also have to schedule all internships or clinical training that will be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Phoenix AZ Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college 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 life long career, you need to acquire the appropriate info on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools providing training these days that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, verify that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you intend 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, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Phoenix AZ.