How to Pick the Right CMA School near Little Rock Arkansas
Once you have made a decision to enter the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Little Rock AR, it's time to choose a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the right one? Many future students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean 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 factors as well. You may decide to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a college you must complete your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the colleges you are assessing. And to help you with that task, we have included several questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Primarily their job is to make sure that the Little Rock AR clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers where they work operate efficiently. 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 tasked with giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health practitioners but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are qualified to under Arkansas law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and attain certification. Two of the options offered 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 Education
Compared to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Little Rock AR health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically two options provided for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about 1 year to finish, 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 typically two year programs offered at Arkansas junior and community colleges together with trade 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 courses. They frequently have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local medical 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.
Medical Assistant Online Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are an excellent alternative for students who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good option for Arkansas students who continue to work full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be lessened as well. But keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be carried out in Little Rock AR area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your training might be the right option for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent idea for individuals who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in getting a position after graduation, but it may also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many possible Little Rock AR medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. 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 take the CMA exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to examining your medical assistant school options, you have to determine which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. After those choices have been made, you can begin the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Little Rock 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 must look at when researching schools. To help you with that process, below are a few questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to confirm that the program you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 exam. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Little Rock AR employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passage Percentage? The majority of Arkansas accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to find out which of the certifications the schools you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Next, learn 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 college's program. Of course schools with lower rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Provided? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however 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 complete in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, make sure that the Arkansas schools you are reviewing offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Offered? Numerous medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Little Rock AR area healthcare providers. They are a great method to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Little Rock health care community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Landing that first job may be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Little Rock AR area and find out 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 broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to attend a couple of classes before choosing a program to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue working on a full time basis, it's important that the college you enroll in offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Little Rock AR, confirm that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will still have to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Little Rock AR Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will furnish the proper training. Regardless if you're goal is to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime 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 these days that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Little Rock AR.