How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant Program near Aliso Viejo California
Now that you have decided to enter the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Aliso Viejo CA, it's time to select a college that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the best one? Most future students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors as well. You may decide to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you must complete your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have provided a few questions that you should ask each of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
The Function of Medical Assistants
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their role is to make sure that the Aliso Viejo CA hospitals, clinics and other medical care facilities where they work run efficiently. Depending on the type or size of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health 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:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can perform almost any task they are qualified to under California law, some choose 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) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training
In contrast to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Aliso Viejo CA health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally two options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about one year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at California junior and community colleges together with technical and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a practical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are an excellent option for students who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good solution for California students who continue to work full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be lessened as well. But remember that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be performed in Aliso Viejo CA area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to getting your training might be the right choice for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for graduates who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in attaining a position after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Many potential Aliso Viejo CA medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and perhaps the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate 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 provided by the NHA.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to determine which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many potential students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Aliso Viejo CA with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should look at when assessing programs. To help you with that task, following are some questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to verify that the school 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 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 agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Aliso Viejo CA employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Percentage? The majority of California accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to find out which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then of course you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the methods to help assess the quality of a college's program. Naturally schools with low rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are generally two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate 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 decide to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take about 2 years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, confirm that the California colleges you are reviewing provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Aliso Viejo CA area medical care providers. They are a great way to get hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Aliso Viejo medical community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Landing that very first job may be a difficult undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Aliso Viejo CA area and find out 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 suggests that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? 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 likely to provide increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If possible, try to attend a couple of classes before selecting 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 college while you continue working full-time, it's essential that the program you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Aliso Viejo CA, make certain that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, but you will also have to schedule any internships or clinical training that may be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Aliso Viejo CA Medical Assistant Training
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant program that will provide the proper training. Whether you're goal is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to acquire the appropriate info on available programs prior to 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 addressed in this article, make sure that the program you select is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless 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, be sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can subsequently begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Aliso Viejo CA.