How to Choose an Accredited Medical Assistant Degree Program near Conway Arkansas
Now that you have made a decision to become a part of the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Conway AR, it's time to choose a college that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently pick the right one? Most prospective students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You may decide to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the schools you are reviewing. And to help you with that process, we have provided several questions that you should 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 type of training and credentials that are available.
The Duties of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Basically their function is to make sure that the Conway AR clinics, hospitals and other medical care institutions where they work operate efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are authorized to under Arkansas law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the choices offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training
Unlike most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Conway AR health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about one year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at Arkansas community and junior colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They often have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare 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 similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for individuals who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it might also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Conway AR medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and arguably the most respected 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 have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are an excellent option for students who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good choice for Arkansas students who continue to work full-time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Supplemental costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized also. Just keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be carried out in Conway AR area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of getting your training might be the right option for you. With the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school options, you must choose which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many potential students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Conway AR with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you must explore when assessing programs. To help you with that process, below are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to confirm that the school you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, 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 program is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Also, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Conway AR 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 Arkansas accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to learn which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Obviously programs with low rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can opt to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take approximately 2 years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the Arkansas colleges you are reviewing provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Conway AR area health care providers. They are a great means to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They can also assist students develop relationships within the Conway healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Finding that very first job may be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Conway AR area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much personal attention you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a couple of classes before choosing a program to see what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the school you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near Conway AR, make sure that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will still need to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Additionally, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family issues.
Choose the Right Conway AR Medical Assistant Training
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will furnish the right training. Whether you're goal is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to obtain 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 upon 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 anticipate 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 on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Conway AR.