How to Find an Accredited CMA Degree Program near Fayetteville Arkansas
Once you have made a decision to become a part of the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Fayetteville AR, it's time to select a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the best one? Most prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors also. You might choose to look into some 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 finish your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the colleges you are evaluating. And to help you with that process, we have included several questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are available.
The Duties of Medical Assistants
The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their function is to make sure that the Fayetteville AR clinics, hospitals 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 responsible for giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the possible 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 rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying general support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Arkansas law, some opt to specialize in a specific area and earn 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 Programs
Unlike many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, many Fayetteville AR health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically two choices available for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about a year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs provided at Arkansas community and junior colleges together with vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a practical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent option for those who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some possible Fayetteville AR medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. 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). In order to sit for the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are a good 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 Arkansas students who continue to work full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, a number of online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Supplemental costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be lessened as well. But remember that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be completed in Fayetteville AR area health care 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. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school options, you need to choose which kind of credential you want to attain, 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, some potential students restrict their searches to the colleges that are closest to Fayetteville AR with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you should examine when evaluating programs. To assist you with that task, below are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to ensure that the college you select is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved agencies 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 either of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Fayetteville AR employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? The majority of Arkansas accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must find out which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will need to enroll in a program concentrating on that certification. Second, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is one of the methods to help assess the quality of a college's program. Obviously programs with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Available? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can elect to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require approximately two years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, confirm that the Arkansas schools you are reviewing offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Fayetteville AR area medical care providers. They are a great method to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They may also help students build relationships within the Fayetteville healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Landing that very first job can be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Fayetteville AR 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 medical community. It also suggests that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a couple of classes before enrolling in a school to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full time, it's important that the school you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Fayetteville AR, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will still need to schedule any clinical training or internships that may be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Fayetteville AR Medical Assistant Program
It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will provide the proper training. Regardless if you're goal is to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must acquire the right information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges providing training these days that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially 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 made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Fayetteville AR.