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Become a Medical Assistant Fort Smith AR 72901

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

Fort Smith AR medical assistant with patient chartNow that you have decided to join the rewarding profession of healthcare 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 evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the right one? Most future students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest 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 critical issues also. You might want to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a program you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are assessing. And to assist you with that process, we have included several questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.

The Role of a Medical Assistant

Fort Smith AR CMA taking blood pressure reading of patient

The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their job is ensure that the Fort Smith AR hospitals, clinics and other medical care facilities where they work operate efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other health practitioners but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the many responsibilities of a medical assistant include:

  • Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
  • Setting and confirming appointments
  • Taking vital signs and weighing patients
  • Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
  • Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
  • Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures

While medical assistants may perform almost any task they are authorized to under Arkansas law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the choices 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 Courses

Fort Smith AR medical assistant welcoming patient on crutchesUnlike most other healthcare 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 school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally two options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs provided at Arkansas junior and community colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. 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 Options for Medical Assistants

As earlier stated, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good option for graduates who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting employment after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential 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 perhaps the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.

Online Medical Assistant Courses

Fort Smith Arkansas student attending medical assistant classes onlineThere are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are an excellent option for individuals who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good choice for Arkansas students who continue working full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be lessened also. But remember that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be completed in Fort Smith AR area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of receiving your education may be the right choice for you. Between the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.

Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges

Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to determine which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. Once those choices have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, some potential students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Fort Smith AR with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional factors that you need to look at when assessing schools. To help you with that task, below are a few questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are thinking about before making your final choice.

Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to verify that the program you select is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 program is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Fort Smith AR employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.

What is the School's Passage Rate? Most of the Arkansas accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to find out which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will want to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Second, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the ways to help assess the quality of a college's program. Obviously schools with low rates are ones that you will want to avoid.

Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are basically two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can decide to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take approximately 2 years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you elect to pursue, confirm that the Arkansas colleges you are looking at offer the type of program you are interested in.

Are Internships Sponsored? A large number of medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Fort Smith AR area medical providers. They are a great way to get hands-on practical training and experience. They can also assist students build relationships within the Fort Smith healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.

Is Job Placement Service Offered? Finding that initial job may be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Fort Smith AR area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high 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 large network of employers to help place students in jobs.

How Large are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indicator of how much personal attention you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to instructors and face to face interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a couple of classes before enrolling in a college to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.

Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full time, it's essential that the school you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need 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 also need to schedule any internships or clinical training that will be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family responsibilities.

Enroll in the Best Fort Smith AR Medical Assistant Program

It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you need to acquire the appropriate information on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of schools providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, make certain that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the best program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Fort Smith AR.