How to Choose an Accredited CMA Course near Fort Smith Arkansas
Now that you have decided to join the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Fort Smith AR, it's time to select a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently enroll in the ideal one? Many potential students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors also. You might decide to look into some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are reviewing. And to assist you with that process, we have furnished some questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Basically their function is ensure that the Fort Smith AR hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions where they work operate successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the many 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 fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Giving basic support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants may carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Arkansas law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and earn 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 Training Courses
In contrast to many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Fort Smith AR health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically two choices provided for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about a year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs available at Arkansas community and junior colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a practical element involving an internship with a local medical practice. 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 similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online also. They are a good alternative for those who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good alternative for Arkansas students who continue working full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be reduced also. Just bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be completed in Fort Smith AR area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your education may be the right choice for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for individuals who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Fort Smith AR medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and possibly 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 be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to determine which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to Fort Smith AR with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you need to look at when evaluating schools. To assist you with that process, below are a few questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to ensure that the school you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 either of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Fort Smith AR employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the Arkansas accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will want to select a program focused on that certification. Second, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course schools with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can decide to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will take about two years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you elect to pursue, confirm that the Arkansas colleges you are looking at provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? Numerous medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Fort Smith AR area healthcare providers. They are a great means to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students develop relationships within the Fort Smith health care community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Landing that initial job can be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they have some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Fort Smith AR 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 healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to attend a few classes before choosing a program to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's essential that the college you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Fort Smith AR, make certain that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will still need to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Fort Smith AR Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will provide the right training. Whether you're goal is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to obtain the appropriate info on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, confirm that the program you select is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially 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, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Fort Smith AR.