How to Enroll In an Accredited Medical Assistant Course near Hot Springs Arkansas
Once you have made a decision to enter the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Hot Springs AR, it's time to choose a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Most prospective students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues also. You may decide to research some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are examining. And to help you with that process, we have included several questions that you need to 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 training and credentials that are available.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Basically their function is ensure that the Hot Springs AR hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions where they work run successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants can perform almost any task they are qualified to under Arkansas law, some choose to specialize in a particular 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 Programs
Unlike many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, many Hot Springs AR health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically two options available for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about one year to complete, a few 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 alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs available at Arkansas community and junior colleges in addition to technical and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They frequently have a clinical element involving 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 previously mentioned, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for graduates who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting a job after graduation, but it can also help with initial salary negotiations. Many possible Hot Springs AR medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and arguably 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 be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are an excellent option for those who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good choice for Arkansas students who continue to work full time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Supplemental expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be minimized also. But remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be carried out in Hot Springs AR area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your training might be the ideal option for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to choose which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. After those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to Hot Springs AR with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you need to examine when evaluating schools. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to make sure that the school you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in 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 program is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, many prospective Hot Springs AR employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the Arkansas accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you must learn 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, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Of course schools with low rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take approximately 2 years to accomplish in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, make certain that the Arkansas schools you are reviewing offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Hot Springs AR area healthcare providers. They are an excellent method to get hands-on practical experience and training. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Hot Springs medical community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Finding that first job may be a difficult undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Hot Springs AR area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? Class size might be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to attend a few classes before choosing a college to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it's imperative that the school you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Hot Springs AR, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, but you will still have to schedule any clinical training or internships that might 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 responsibilities.
Choose the Right Hot Springs AR Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant program that will furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to get the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of schools providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, confirm that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus 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 begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Hot Springs AR.