How to Pick the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program near Sun City Arizona
Now that you have decided to become a part of the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Sun City AZ, it's time to select a college that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the right one? Most prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You may want to research some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must finish your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the colleges you are evaluating. And to assist you with that task, we have included several questions that you need to ask all of the colleges 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 type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Primarily their function is to make sure that the Sun City AZ hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions where they work run efficiently. Depending on the type or size of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants may carry out almost any task they are qualified to under Arizona law, some prefer to specialize in a particular area and attain certification. Two of the choices available 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 Courses
Compared to many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Sun City 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 essentially 2 options available for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about one year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs available at Arizona junior and community colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They frequently have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are an excellent option for those who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good solution for Arizona students who continue to work full-time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized as well. Just bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Sun City AZ area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your training may be the ideal option for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for graduates who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a job after graduation, but it might also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Sun City AZ medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school options, you need to decide which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. Once those selections have been made, you can start the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of students restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Sun City AZ with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should look at when researching programs. To assist you with that process, following are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the schools you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to make sure that the school you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the education 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 agencies 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 organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many prospective Sun City AZ employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School's Passing Rate? Most of the Arizona accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you must find out which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will need to enroll in 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. This is just one of the means to help assess the quality of a school's program. Of course schools with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can elect to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to accomplish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the Arizona schools you are reviewing offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Sun City AZ area medical providers. They are a great means to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They can also assist students build relationships within the Sun City medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Getting that first job can be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Sun City AZ area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms 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 might 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 instructors and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a couple of classes before enrolling in a school to witness what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue working on a full time basis, it's imperative that the school you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Sun City AZ, verify that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, but you will also have to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Sun City AZ Medical Assistant Program
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you're goal is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to acquire the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make certain that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind 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 evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Sun City AZ.