Home >> Arkansas >> Fort Smith >> Medical Assistant Programs


Become a Medical Assistant Fort Smith AR 72901

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

Fort Smith AR medical assistant holding patient chartNow that you have made a decision to enter the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Fort Smith AR, it's time to select a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately pick the ideal one? Many potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important factors as well. You might want to research several online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have provided some 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 responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are offered.

The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant

Fort Smith AR CMA taking vital signs of patient

The job of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their role is ensure that the Fort Smith AR hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work operate successfully. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the possible functions of a medical assistant include:

  • Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
  • Scheduling and verifying appointments
  • Taking vital signs and weighing patients
  • Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
  • Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
  • Providing general support during examinations and procedures

While medical assistants may carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Arkansas law, some prefer to specialize in a particular area and obtain certification. Two of the choices available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) made available by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

Medical Assistant Training Courses

Fort Smith AR CMA welcoming patient on crutchesCompared to most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain 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 have earned certification. There are generally two options provided for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about 1 year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs provided at Arkansas junior and community colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a practical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare 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 related field.

Certification Programs for Medical Assistants

As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good idea for individuals who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting employment after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Some possible Fort Smith AR medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.

Online Medical Assistant Courses

Fort Smith AR woman attending medical assistant online schoolThere are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are an excellent option for students who might not have the time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good option for Arkansas students who continue to work full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be reduced as well. Just keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be carried out in Fort Smith AR area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your education may be the right choice for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.

Points to Ask Medical Assistant Schools

Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which type 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 begin the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Fort Smith AR with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you need to examine when evaluating programs. To help you with that process, following 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 make certain that the program you enroll in is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you must complete 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 potential Fort Smith AR employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.

What is the Program's Passing Rate? The majority of Arkansas accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to learn which of the certifications the colleges you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will want to choose a program targeting that certification. Next, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Obviously programs with low rates are ones that you will want to avoid.

Which Programs are Provided? As we previously covered, there are basically two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require approximately 2 years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, make sure that the Arkansas schools you are considering provide the kind of program you have an interest in.

Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Fort Smith AR area healthcare providers. They are an excellent method to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They can also help students build relationships within the Fort Smith healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Help Provided? Landing that first job can be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Fort Smith AR area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also suggests that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in jobs.

How Large 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 furnish increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a couple of classes before selecting a college to observe what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.

Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue working full time, it's important that the college you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Fort Smith AR, confirm that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, 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 issues.

Enroll in the Best Fort Smith AR Medical Assistant Training

It's important to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to acquire the right info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make certain that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan 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 supplied in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can subsequently begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Fort Smith AR.