How to Choose an Accredited Medical Assistant Program near Pine Bluff Arkansas
Once you have made a decision to join the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Pine Bluff AR, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Many prospective students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors also. You might decide to look into some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are examining. And to assist you with that process, we have included a few questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The job of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Essentially their function is ensure that the Pine Bluff AR clinics, hospitals and other healthcare centers where they work run successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can 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 health practitioners but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the possible duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are authorized to under Arkansas law, some prefer to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the options available 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 medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Pine Bluff AR health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally two choices available for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about a year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs offered at Arkansas community and junior colleges in addition to 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 classes. They often have a practical component involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are a good choice for those who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good option for Arkansas students who continue working full-time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, many online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be reduced as well. But bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be performed in Pine Bluff 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 education may be the best choice for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for graduates who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it might also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible Pine Bluff AR medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and possibly 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 examination, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. After those choices have been made, you can begin the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to Pine Bluff AR with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you need to look at when evaluating programs. To assist you with that process, below 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 Course Accredited? There are many great reasons to confirm that the program you enroll in 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 intend to become certified, you must complete 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 school is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Pine Bluff AR employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? The majority of Arkansas accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will want to choose a program targeting that certification. Next, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is about 1 year. Or you can decide to obtain an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately 2 years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, confirm that the Arkansas colleges you are looking at provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Pine Bluff AR area health care providers. They are a great means to get hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also assist students build relationships within the Pine Bluff health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Supplied? Finding that first job may be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Pine Bluff AR area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the health care 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 might 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 prone to furnish increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before selecting a school to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it's imperative that the school you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Pine Bluff AR, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, but you will also need to schedule all internships or clinical training that will be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family issues.
Choose the Best Pine Bluff AR Medical Assistant Training
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will furnish the appropriate training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must obtain the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many colleges providing training these days that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can subsequently begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Pine Bluff AR.