How to Choose the Best CMA Program near Texarkana Arkansas
Once you have decided to enter the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Texarkana AR, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? A number of prospective students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues as well. You might want to look into several online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are examining. And to help you with that task, we have provided 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 type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Function of Medical Assistants
The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their function is to make sure that the Texarkana AR clinics, hospitals and other healthcare centers where they work operate efficiently. Depending 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 giving direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the many responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing basic support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Arkansas law, some prefer to specialize in a particular area and obtain 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 Programs
Unlike most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Texarkana AR health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially 2 options provided for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about one year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs offered at Arkansas community and junior colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They frequently have a practical element requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are a good alternative 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 alternative for Arkansas students who continue working full-time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Supplemental costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be lessened also. But bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be carried out in Texarkana AR area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your training might be the right option for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for individuals who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible Texarkana AR medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. One of 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 apply for the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered also, such as 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 alternatives, you must choose which type of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. After those selections have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Texarkana AR with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you must examine when evaluating programs. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many great reasons to confirm that the school you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Texarkana AR employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passing Rate? Most of the Arkansas accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you must determine which of the certifications the schools you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will want to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Next, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with low rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally 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, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about 1 year. Or you can decide to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take about two years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, confirm that the Arkansas schools you are considering offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Texarkana AR area healthcare providers. They are a great means to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students build relationships within the Texarkana healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Landing that very first job may be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Texarkana AR area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to attend a few classes before choosing a school to see what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full-time, it's imperative that the program you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near Texarkana AR, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will still have to schedule all internships or clinical training that might be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family issues.
Choose the Best Texarkana AR Medical Assistant Training
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will provide the right training. Whether you're planning to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the right information on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering training nowadays 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 choose is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can subsequently begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Texarkana AR.