How to Select an Accredited Medical Assistant School near Prescott Arizona
Once you have made a decision to become a part of the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Prescott AZ, it's time to select a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? Many prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors also. You might want to look into some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The main point is that before you select a college you must complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to assist you with that process, we have provided some 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 function of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
The Duties of Medical Assistants
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their job is ensure that the Prescott AZ clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers where they work operate 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 physicians, nurses and other health practitioners but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are authorized to under Arizona law, some choose 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) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Education
Compared to most other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Prescott AZ health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs generally take about a year to finish, some 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 alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs available at Arizona junior and community colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They often have a clinical element 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.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online as well. They are a good alternative for students who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good solution for Arizona students who continue to work full-time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be lessened as well. Just remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be performed 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 method of receiving your education might be the right option for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for graduates who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in getting employment after graduation, but it might also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Prescott AZ medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. 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). To qualify to apply for the CMA exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must decide which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. Once those selections have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students confine their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Prescott AZ with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional factors that you need to explore when evaluating programs. To help you with that process, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to make certain that the school you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 one of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Prescott AZ employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? The majority of Arizona accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you must determine which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Second, 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 assess the quality of a college's program. Of course programs with lower rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and receive 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 opt to acquire an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately 2 years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, make certain that the Arizona schools you are considering provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Prescott AZ area healthcare providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on practical experience and training. They can also help students establish relationships within the Prescott medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Provided? Landing that first job can be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Prescott AZ area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a few classes before enrolling in a school to witness what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue working on a full time basis, it's important that the program you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near Prescott AZ, make certain that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will also have to schedule all internships or clinical training that will be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Prescott AZ Medical Assistant Program
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant program that will provide the right training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the right information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of schools providing training these days that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you pick 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 kind of credential that you intend 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 so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can ultimately start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Prescott AZ.