How to Find an Accredited CMA School Program near Hot Springs Arkansas
Once you have made a decision to join the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Hot Springs AR, it's time to select a school that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Most future students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues also. You may decide to research several online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that process, we have provided several questions that you should ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Function of a Medical Assistant
The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Primarily their role is to make sure that the Hot Springs AR hospitals, clinics and other healthcare centers where they work run successfully. Depending on the type or size of facility, they may 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 professionals but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants may carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Arkansas law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the choices offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Education
In contrast to most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Hot Springs AR health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 choices offered for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about a year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs offered at Arkansas junior and community colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They often have a practical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Medical Assistant Online Colleges
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are a good 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 an especially good solution for Arkansas students who continue to work full-time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be reduced as well. Just bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be completed in Hot Springs AR area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal 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 provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for individuals who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in getting a position after graduation, but it might also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Hot Springs AR medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to choose which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. Once those selections have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Hot Springs AR with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you must explore when researching programs. To help you with that process, below are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are several good reasons to confirm that the program you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in 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 program is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many prospective Hot Springs AR employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School's Passing Percentage? Most of the Arkansas accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to learn which of the certifications the schools you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will want to select a program targeting 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 ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are basically two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and get 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 obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take approximately two years to accomplish in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, make sure that the Arkansas colleges you are considering provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? Numerous medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Hot Springs AR area healthcare providers. They are an excellent way to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They may also assist students build relationships within the Hot Springs healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Getting that first job may be a challenging task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Hot Springs AR area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college 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 contacts to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much individual attention you will receive 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 convenient, try to sit in on a few classes before selecting a school to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work 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 Hot Springs AR, verify that those times are available. You might 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 may be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Hot Springs AR Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you need to acquire the appropriate info on available programs before making your decision. There are so many colleges providing training these days that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, make sure that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless 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, be sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare 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 AR.