Home >> Arkansas >> Fort Smith >> Medical Assistant Degrees


Become a Medical Assistant Fort Smith AR 72901

How to Enroll In the Right Medical Assistant School Program near Fort Smith Arkansas

Fort Smith AR medical assistant with patient chartNow that you have decided to become a part of the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Fort Smith AR, it's time to choose a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately pick the best one? Most potential students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors as well. You may choose to research a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are evaluating. And to assist you with that process, we have provided a few 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 kind of credentials and training that are available.

The Job of Medical Assistants

Fort Smith AR medical assistant measuring vital signs of patient

The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Essentially their role is ensure that the Fort Smith AR hospitals, clinics and other healthcare centers where they work run efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for 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 responsibilities of a medical assistant include:

  • Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
  • Setting and verifying appointments
  • Weighing and taking patients vital signs
  • Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
  • Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
  • Providing basic support during exams and procedures

Although medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Arkansas law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and obtain 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 Courses

Fort Smith AR CMA opening door for patientCompared to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Fort Smith AR health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally 2 choices provided for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about 1 year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs offered at Arkansas 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 general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They usually have a practical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.

Medical Assistant Online Classes

Fort Smith Arkansas woman attending medical assistant classes onlineThere are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are an excellent option for those who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good option for Arkansas students who continue to work full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, a number of online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Supplemental costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be reduced also. But bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be carried out in Fort Smith AR area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your training might be the right option for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.

Certification Programs for Medical Assistants

As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good option for those who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in securing employment after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Many potential Fort Smith AR medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. 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 take the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate 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 evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you must determine which kind of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some potential students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Fort Smith AR with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you need to look at when researching schools. To assist you with that process, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate selection.

Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several great reasons to make sure that the school you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 program is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Fort Smith AR employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.

What is the School's Passage Percentage? The majority of Arkansas accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you must determine which of the certifications the programs you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Second, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course schools with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.

Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can elect to obtain an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require about 2 years to complete in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, make sure that the Arkansas colleges you are looking at provide the kind of program you are interested in.

Are Internships Offered? Many medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Fort Smith AR area medical providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the Fort Smith medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Finding that first job may be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Fort Smith AR area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in positions.

How Large are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a program to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.

Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue working on a full time basis, it's essential that the program you enroll in offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near Fort Smith AR, verify that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will still have to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.

Choose the Best Fort Smith AR Medical Assistant Training

It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you're planning to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must get the appropriate info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of schools offering 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 choose is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can subsequently start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Fort Smith AR.