How to Select an Accredited Medical Assistant School Program near Alameda California
Once you have made a decision to join the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Alameda CA, it's time to select a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently enroll in the ideal one? Most potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues as well. You might decide to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have included some questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Function of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Basically their duty is to make sure that the Alameda CA clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions where they work operate successfully. 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 giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the many responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing basic support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are authorized to under California law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and earn certification. Two of the options 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 Courses
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Alameda CA health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially two options offered for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs generally take about 1 year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs offered at California community and junior colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more extensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a practical component requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good option for those who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in attaining employment after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Alameda CA medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. 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, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are a good alternative for students who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good alternative for California students who continue to work full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, a number of online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Ancillary expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be reduced also. Just remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be completed in Alameda CA area medical facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your training might be the right choice for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school options, you have to choose which type of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. Once those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of students limit their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Alameda CA with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional factors that you need to explore when assessing schools. To assist you with that task, following are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several great reasons to ensure that the program you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, 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 school is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many prospective Alameda CA employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School's Passage Rate? The majority of California accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you must learn which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will want to choose a program focused on that certification. Next, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course schools with low rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Available? As we covered earlier, there are basically two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can decide to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to accomplish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, confirm that the California colleges you are looking at provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Alameda CA area healthcare providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also assist students develop relationships within the Alameda healthcare community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Supplied? Getting that first job can be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Alameda CA area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much personal instruction you will get during 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 attend a few classes before enrolling in a college to observe what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working on a full time basis, it's imperative that the program you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Alameda CA, make sure that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will also need to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Alameda CA Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will provide the right training. Regardless if you're goal is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must get the appropriate information on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan on 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 online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can ultimately start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Alameda CA.