How to Enroll In the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program near Altadena California
Now that you have made a decision to join the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Altadena CA, it's time to choose a college that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately pick the best one? Most prospective students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important factors also. You might choose to research some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have included a few questions that you should ask each of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The duties of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Primarily their duty is to make sure that the Altadena CA hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions where they work run successfully. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for giving 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 many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants may carry out almost any activity they are qualified to under California law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and obtain certification. Two of the choices offered 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 Courses
Compared to many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Altadena 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 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 generally take about a year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs provided at California community and junior colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They often have a clinical component involving 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 requirement, but is a good option for graduates who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a position after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. Many possible Altadena CA medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to apply for the CMA exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. 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 a particularly good option for California students who continue to work full time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be reduced also. But keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be performed in Altadena CA area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your education might be the right option for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. After those choices have been made, you can begin the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Altadena CA with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you need to examine when researching programs. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many good reasons to confirm that the college you select is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the education 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 accepted 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 school is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Altadena CA employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the California accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you must learn which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to select a program concentrating on that certification. Second, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with lower rates are ones that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma 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 elect to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require approximately two years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, confirm that the California schools you are reviewing offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Altadena CA area medical care providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on practical training and experience. They may also assist students establish relationships within the Altadena healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Finding that very first job may be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Altadena CA area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a few classes before choosing a school to witness what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full time, it's imperative that the college you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Altadena CA, make sure that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will also have to schedule all internships or practical training that might be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Altadena CA Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will provide the right training. Whether you're objective 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 get the appropriate info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training these days that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, confirm that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Altadena CA.