How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant School near Altadena California
Once you have decided to enter the rewarding 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 proper training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately pick the best one? A number of potential students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors as well. You might choose to look into several online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you must carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are assessing. And to assist you with that process, we have provided several questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Essentially their function is ensure that the Altadena CA hospitals, clinics and other medical care centers where they work operate successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are authorized to under California law, some prefer to specialize in a specific area and obtain 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 Courses
Compared to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Altadena CA health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially two choices provided for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about one year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed 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 normally two year programs provided at California junior and community colleges together with technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a practical element requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent option for graduates who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting employment after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Altadena CA medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. 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). In order to apply for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are an excellent choice for individuals who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good option for California students who continue to work full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be minimized also. But keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be performed in Altadena CA area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your training may be the ideal option for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school options, you have to choose which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some potential students confine their searches to the schools that are nearest to Altadena CA with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you should look at when researching schools. To assist you with that process, below are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are many good reasons to make certain that the program you enroll in is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction 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 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 either of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Altadena CA employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passage Rate? Most of the California accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to learn which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will want to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Second, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course schools with lower rates are ones that you will want to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Available? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about 1 year. Or you can choose to obtain 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, make certain that the California schools you are reviewing provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? A large number of medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Altadena CA area medical care providers. They are a great method to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also help students establish relationships within the Altadena health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Finding that first job can be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating offer 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 graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size can be an indication of how much personal attention you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a few classes before enrolling in a program to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue working on a full time basis, it's imperative that the program you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Altadena CA, verify that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will also have to schedule all clinical training or internships that may be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Best Altadena 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. Regardless if you're goal 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 get the appropriate information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, make sure that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend 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 so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Altadena CA.