Home >> Arkansas >> Fort Smith >> Medical Assistant Schools Near Me


Become a Medical Assistant Fort Smith AR 72901

How to Choose the Right Medical Assistant Course near Fort Smith Arkansas

Fort Smith AR medical assistant with patient chartNow that you have decided to become a part of the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Fort Smith AR, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? Most prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues also. You may want to take a look at a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you must complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the colleges you are examining. 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 prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are offered.

The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant

Fort Smith AR CMA measuring vital signs of patient

The job of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Essentially their job is to make sure that the Fort Smith AR hospitals, clinics and other medical care centers where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the possible responsibilities of a medical assistant include:

  • Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
  • Setting and confirming appointments
  • Weighing and taking patients vital signs
  • Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
  • Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
  • Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures

While medical assistants may carry out almost any task they are qualified to under Arkansas law, some prefer to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options 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 Programs

Fort Smith AR medical assistant opening door for patientIn contrast to many other healthcare professionals, 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 program (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally two options available for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about one year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs available at Arkansas junior and community colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a practical element requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.

Certification Options for Medical Assistants

As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good choice for those who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in getting a job after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Some potential Fort Smith AR medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to take the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Programs

Fort Smith AR student attending medical assistant classes onlineThere are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online as well. They are a good choice for those who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good choice for Arkansas students who continue working full time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, a number of online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Ancillary costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be minimized also. Just keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be carried out in Fort Smith AR area medical facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your training may be the right option for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.

Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools

Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to choose which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can begin the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some potential students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to Fort Smith AR with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you need to examine when evaluating programs. 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 final choice.

Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to confirm that the college you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become 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 organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, many potential Fort Smith AR employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.

What is the Program's Passing Rate? The majority of Arkansas accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you must determine which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Second, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the methods to help assess the quality of a college's program. Of course programs with low rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.

Which Programs are Available? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can opt to earn an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take about two years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the Arkansas colleges you are looking at offer 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 a great method to get hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the Fort Smith healthcare community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Getting that very first job may be a difficult undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Fort Smith AR area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in jobs.

How Big are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before selecting a college to witness what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.

Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full-time, it's essential that the school you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Fort Smith AR, confirm that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will still have to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Additionally, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family issues.

Choose the Right Fort Smith AR Medical Assistant SchoolCourse

It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant program that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you're goal is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can subsequently start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Fort Smith AR.