How to Select the Best CMA School Program near North Little Rock Arkansas
Now that you have decided to become a part of the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near North Little Rock AR, it's time to choose a college that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the ideal one? Most future students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes 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 factors also. You may decide to research a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you need to finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have provided a few questions that you need to ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their duty is to make sure that the North Little Rock AR clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions where they work operate efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Supplying general support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are authorized to under Arkansas law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and obtain 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 Training
Compared to most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, many North Little Rock AR health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 options available for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about 1 year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs available at Arkansas junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are a good alternative for individuals who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good solution for Arkansas students who continue working full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, a number of online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened also. Just keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be performed in North Little Rock AR area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this method of receiving your training may be the ideal choice for you. With the online lessons and the clinical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent idea for those who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in securing employment after graduation, but it may also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible North Little Rock AR medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. One of 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 sit for the CMA exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school options, you have to choose which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. After those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to North Little Rock AR with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you must explore when evaluating schools. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to verify that the college you enroll in is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, 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 agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential North Little Rock AR employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passing Percentage? Most of the Arkansas accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the schools you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to select a program focused on that certification. Second, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course programs with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can decide to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will take about two years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, make certain that the Arkansas colleges you are considering provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant schools offer internship programs with North Little Rock AR area health care providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students develop relationships within the North Little Rock health care community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Landing that first job may be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the North Little Rock AR area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a large network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indication of how much individual instruction you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a couple of classes before choosing a college to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full-time, it's imperative that the school you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near North Little Rock AR, make sure that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will also have to schedule any internships or clinical training that might 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 issues.
Choose the Best North Little Rock AR Medical Assistant Training
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you're planning to launch 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 right info on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools providing training these days that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in North Little Rock AR.