How to Select an Accredited Medical Assistant School near Tucson Arizona
Now that you have made a decision to become a part of the gratifying profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Tucson AZ, it's time to select a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? Many potential students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors as well. You may want to take a look at a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you must complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are evaluating. And to help you with that process, we have furnished a few questions that you need to ask each of the colleges on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.
The Role of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Primarily their duty is ensure that the Tucson AZ clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work run efficiently. Depending on the type or size of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Supplying basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any activity they are authorized to under Arizona law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options 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 Programs
Compared to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Tucson AZ health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially two options provided for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about 1 year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs available at Arizona community and junior colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a clinical component involving an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for individuals who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of potential Tucson AZ medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and perhaps the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available as well, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online as well. They are an excellent alternative for students who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good choice for Arizona students who continue working full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be lessened as well. Just bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be completed in Tucson AZ area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this method of getting your training might be the ideal option for you. Between the online lessons and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school options, you must determine which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. Once those choices have been made, you can start the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of students limit their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Tucson AZ with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you should look at when researching schools. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many good reasons to verify that the school you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the training 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 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 school is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Tucson AZ employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Rate? The majority of Arizona accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you must determine which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the means to help assess the quality of a school's program. Of course schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately two years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you elect to pursue, confirm 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 Tucson AZ area health care providers. They are an excellent method to get hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students build relationships within the Tucson health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Offered? Landing that very first job may be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Tucson AZ area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also suggests that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much personal instruction you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a few classes before choosing a school to observe what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's essential that the school you choose provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near Tucson AZ, verify that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will also need to schedule all internships or practical training that might be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Tucson AZ Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant program that will provide the right training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to acquire the appropriate 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 addressed in this article, verify that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you intend 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, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Tucson AZ.