How to Select an Accredited Medical Assistant School Program near Phoenix Arizona
Once you have decided to become a part of the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Phoenix AZ, it's time to select a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently pick the best one? Many future students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors as well. You may want to look into 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 need to complete your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are examining. And to help you with that process, we have provided several questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are offered.
The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The function of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their job is to make sure that the Phoenix AZ hospitals, clinics and other healthcare centers where they work operate successfully. 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 providing direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many 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 doctors
- Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants can perform almost any task they are authorized to under Arizona law, some choose 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 Courses
In contrast to many other medical 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 prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally 2 options available for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs offered at Arizona community and junior colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They usually have a clinical component involving an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good choice for graduates who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in getting employment after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Phoenix AZ medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to apply for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who may not have time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good option for Arizona students who continue to work full-time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be reduced as well. Just bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be completed in Phoenix AZ area medical facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your education might be the ideal choice for you. With the online lessons and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you must decide which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some prospective students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to Phoenix AZ with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you should look at when researching schools. To assist you with that process, below are a few questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many good reasons to make sure that the program you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to complete 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 allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Phoenix AZ employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passing Rate? The majority of Arizona accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must find out which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will want to enroll in a program concentrating on that certification. Second, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with low rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are generally two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and get 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 elect to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will take approximately 2 years to accomplish in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you elect to pursue, confirm that the Arizona colleges you are reviewing offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Phoenix AZ area medical providers. They are an excellent method to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They can also assist students develop relationships within the Phoenix medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Landing that first job can be a challenging task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges 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 indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal attention you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a couple of classes before selecting a college to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the school you choose provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night 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 program, but you will still have to schedule all internships or clinical training that may be required. Additionally, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Phoenix AZ Medical Assistant Program
It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant school that will provide the right training. Regardless if you're objective is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to acquire the right information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the type 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 supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Phoenix AZ.