How to Enroll In an Accredited Medical Assistant Program near Pine Bluff Arkansas
Once you have made a decision to join the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Pine Bluff AR, it's time to select a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Most potential students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors also. You may choose to look into some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must complete your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that process, 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 function of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are offered.
The Role of Medical Assistants
The function of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their function is to make sure that the Pine Bluff AR clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Supplying basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may perform almost any activity they are qualified to under Arkansas law, some prefer to specialize in a specific area and earn certification. Two of the choices available 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 Training
Unlike many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Pine Bluff AR health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially two options available for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs generally take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs provided 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 classes. They usually have a clinical element involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are commonly 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 Colleges
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are a good option for individuals who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good solution for Arkansas students who continue to work full-time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be minimized as well. But remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Pine Bluff AR area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this mode of getting your training may be the ideal choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for those who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Pine Bluff AR medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school options, you need to decide which kind of credential you want 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 procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many prospective students limit their searches to the schools that are closest to Pine Bluff AR with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you must explore when assessing programs. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Program 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 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 either of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Pine Bluff AR employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passage Rate? Most of the Arkansas accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prepare 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 to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will want to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Second, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the means to help assess the quality of a school's program. Naturally programs with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and get 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 elect to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require approximately two years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, confirm that the Arkansas colleges you are reviewing provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Pine Bluff AR area health care providers. They are an excellent means to get hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students build relationships within the Pine Bluff medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Finding that initial job can be a difficult undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Pine Bluff AR area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much personal attention you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to monitor a few classes before enrolling in a program to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the program you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Pine Bluff AR, make certain that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will still have to schedule any internships or practical training that may be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of work, illness or family issues.
Choose the Right Pine Bluff AR Medical Assistant Program
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant program that will furnish the proper training. Regardless if you're objective is to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs before making your decision. There are so many colleges providing training these days that you can make a decision based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget 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 subsequently start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Pine Bluff AR.