How to Choose the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program near Atascadero California
Once you have decided to enter the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Atascadero CA, it's time to choose a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? A number of prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate 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 look into a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have provided a few questions that you need to ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.
The Role of a Medical Assistant
The function of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their function is to make sure that the Atascadero CA hospitals, clinics and other healthcare centers where they work operate successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the many functions 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 samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving basic support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants can carry out almost any task they are qualified to under California law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options 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 Courses
Compared to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Atascadero 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 generally two options provided for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about one year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs available at California community and junior colleges in addition to 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 classes. They usually have a practical element involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Medical Assistant Online Programs
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online also. They are a good option for individuals who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good choice for California students who continue working full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, a number of online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be lessened also. But remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be performed in Atascadero 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 best option for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for those who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting a position after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Atascadero CA medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to apply for the CMA exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must determine which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many students limit their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Atascadero CA with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you must examine when evaluating programs. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many great reasons to make certain that the college you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must complete 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 one of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many prospective Atascadero CA employers will not employ 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 colleges create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to determine which of the certifications the colleges you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will want to choose a program focused on that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course schools with low rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can choose to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take about 2 years to finish in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, confirm that the California colleges you are looking at offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Numerous medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Atascadero CA area medical care providers. They are a great method to receive hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students develop relationships within the Atascadero health care community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Getting that very first job can be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Atascadero CA area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the medical 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 may be an indication of how much personal attention you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If possible, try to monitor a couple of classes before enrolling in a college to experience what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full-time, it's important that the school you select provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Atascadero CA, confirm that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also have to schedule any internships or practical training that will 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.
Choose the Right Atascadero CA Medical Assistant Program
It's important to start 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 life long career, you need to get the right info on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, verify that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can ultimately start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Atascadero CA.