How to Choose an Accredited CMA Program near Atascadero California
Once you have made a decision to enter the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Atascadero CA, it's time to select a school that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently pick the ideal one? Most potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors as well. You may decide to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have provided several questions that you should ask all of the colleges 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 training and credentials that are offered.
The Function of a Medical Assistant
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their function is to make sure that the Atascadero CA clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions where they work operate successfully. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under California law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and attain 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 Programs
Compared to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain 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 essentially 2 choices offered for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about a year to complete, some 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 obtain an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs offered at California community and junior colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a practical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. 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.
Medical Assistant Online Colleges
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are a good alternative for students who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good choice for California students who continue to work full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Supplemental costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be reduced as well. Just keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be carried out in Atascadero CA area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your education may be the ideal choice for you. With the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent option for graduates who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in attaining a position after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Some possible Atascadero CA medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must determine which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of potential students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to Atascadero CA with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you need to look at when assessing schools. To help you with that process, 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 a number of great reasons to confirm that the school you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you must 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 one of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many potential Atascadero 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 colleges develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you must determine which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will need to enroll in a program concentrating on that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the methods to help assess the quality of a college's program. Of course schools with lower rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can decide to earn an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require approximately two years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, verify that the California colleges you are considering offer the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? A large number of medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Atascadero CA area medical care providers. They are an excellent means to receive hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Atascadero health care community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Getting that very first job can be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Atascadero 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 a good reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? Class size can 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 provide greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a couple of classes before selecting a college to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full-time, it's essential that the school you enroll in provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Atascadero CA, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, but you will also need to schedule any clinical training or internships that might be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Atascadero CA Medical Assistant Training
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college 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 lifetime career, you must acquire the right info on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, verify that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can ultimately start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Atascadero CA.