How to Select the Best CMA Degree Program near Hot Springs National Park Arkansas
Once you have made a decision to become a part of the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Hot Springs National Park AR, it's time to select a school that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately pick the ideal one? Many prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues as well. You may choose to look into some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are examining. And to assist you with that task, we have included a few 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 function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Function of a Medical Assistant
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Primarily their role is ensure that the Hot Springs National Park AR clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work run successfully. Depending 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 support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Supplying basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Arkansas law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the options 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 Courses
In contrast to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Hot Springs National Park AR health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically two options provided for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about 1 year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs available at Arkansas community and junior colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are an excellent option for those who may not have time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good choice for Arkansas students who continue to work full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, a number of online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be minimized also. But keep in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be completed in Hot Springs National Park AR area health care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of getting your education may be the ideal choice for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for individuals who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in securing a job after graduation, but it can also help with initial salary negotiations. Some potential Hot Springs National Park AR medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to take the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school options, you need to determine which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. As soon as those decisions have been made, you can start the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Hot Springs National Park AR with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you should explore when evaluating programs. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several great reasons to confirm that the college you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the accepted agencies for accreditation are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If your school is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Hot Springs National Park AR employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School's Passing Rate? Most of the Arkansas accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to learn which of the certifications the programs you are looking at 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 concentrating on that certification. Next, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Obviously schools with low rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Available? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 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 require about 2 years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, verify that the Arkansas colleges you are looking at offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Numerous medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Hot Springs National Park AR area healthcare providers. They are an excellent means to receive hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also help students develop relationships within the Hot Springs National Park health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Landing that first job may be a daunting undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Hot Springs National Park AR area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will get throughout your training. Smaller 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 monitor a few classes before choosing a college to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the school you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Hot Springs National Park AR, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will also need to schedule all clinical training or internships that may be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Best Hot Springs National Park AR Medical Assistant Training
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant school that will provide the proper training. Regardless if you're goal is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must obtain the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges 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, verify that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can subsequently start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Hot Springs National Park AR.