How to Enroll In the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program near Prescott Arizona
Now that you have decided to join the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Prescott AZ, it's time to select a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Many future students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate 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 important factors also. You might choose to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The main point is that before you select a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the schools you are assessing. And to help you with that process, we have included some questions that you should ask all of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Duties of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Essentially their function is to make sure that the Prescott AZ clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work operate efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for providing direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other health practitioners but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the possible duties of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing 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
- Providing general support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may perform almost any task they are authorized to under Arizona law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and attain 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 Courses
Unlike many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Prescott AZ health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about one year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs provided at Arizona community and junior colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a clinical element involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are often 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 Courses
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are a good choice for individuals who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good alternative for Arizona students who continue working full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened as well. Just remember that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be carried out in Prescott AZ area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your training might be the right choice for you. With the online lessons and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for those who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it might also enhance initial salary negotiations. Some potential Prescott AZ medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. 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). In order to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty 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.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to decide which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. Once those selections have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of students limit their searches to the schools that are closest to Prescott AZ with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you must look at when assessing programs. To assist you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are many good reasons to verify that the college you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction 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 approved organizations for accreditation are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If your school is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many prospective Prescott AZ employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Rate? Most of the Arizona accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to determine which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Second, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are ones that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and receive 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 earn an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about 2 years to complete in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, make certain that the Arizona colleges you are looking at provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Prescott AZ area health care providers. They are an excellent method to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They can also help students develop relationships within the Prescott health care community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Offered? Landing that initial job may be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Prescott AZ area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also suggests that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size can be an indication of how much individual instruction you will receive during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a couple of classes before enrolling in a program to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's important that the school you enroll in provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Prescott AZ, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will still need to schedule all internships or clinical training that will be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Prescott AZ Medical Assistant Program
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant college that will provide the right training. Whether you're planning to launch a career in health 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 before making your selection. There are so many colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online 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 subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Prescott AZ.