How to Pick the Best Medical Assistant Program near Tucson Arizona
Once you have decided to join the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Tucson AZ, it's time to choose a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Most future students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues as well. You may choose to look into 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 carry out your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are examining. And to help you with that task, we have provided a few questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are offered.
The Duties of Medical Assistants
The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Basically their job is ensure that the Tucson AZ clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work run successfully. Based on the size or type of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving 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 possible functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants may carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Arizona law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the options 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
Compared to many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, many Tucson 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 available for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about one year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are designed 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 2 year programs available at Arizona junior and community colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive 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 element involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are an excellent option for individuals who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good solution for Arizona students who continue working full time while earning their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be minimized as well. But bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be performed in Tucson AZ area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your training might be the right choice for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for graduates who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining employment after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Some possible Tucson AZ medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to apply for the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered also, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school options, you have to decide which kind of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can start the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some prospective students restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Tucson AZ with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you must examine when evaluating schools. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are several good reasons to verify that the program you select is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming 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 one of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Also, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Tucson AZ employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passage Percentage? Most of the Arizona accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to determine which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to select a program targeting that certification. Second, learn 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 college's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are basically two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can choose to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take approximately two years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, make certain that the Arizona schools you are looking at offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Tucson AZ area healthcare providers. They are a great way to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the Tucson medical community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Getting that first job can be a daunting undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Tucson AZ area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much personal attention you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If possible, try to monitor a couple of classes before choosing a program to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work full time, it's imperative that the school you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Tucson AZ, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, but you will still have to schedule any internships or practical training that might be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Tucson AZ Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant program that will provide the right training. Whether you're planning to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you need to acquire the right information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many schools providing training these days that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make sure that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can ultimately start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Tucson AZ.