How to Choose an Accredited CMA School near Bakersfield California
Once you have made a decision to join the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Bakersfield CA, it's time to select a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately pick the right one? Many future students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues also. You might want to research 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 carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are reviewing. And to assist you with that task, we have provided several questions that you need to ask all 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 type of training and credentials that are available.
The Duties of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Primarily their duty is ensure that the Bakersfield CA hospitals, clinics and other medical care facilities where they work operate efficiently. Based on the size or type of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the nurses, doctors and other health professionals but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the possible 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 specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are authorized to under California law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and earn 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 professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Bakersfield CA health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs normally 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 prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn 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 extensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They frequently have a practical element involving an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are a good alternative for students who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good option for California students who continue working full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, a number of online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be lessened as well. Just bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be completed in Bakersfield CA area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this method of receiving your training might be the best option for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for those who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in securing a position after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. Some potential Bakersfield CA medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. One of 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 sit for the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school options, 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 selections have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many prospective students restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Bakersfield CA with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you must explore when evaluating programs. To assist you with that task, below are a few questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many good reasons to make sure that the program you choose is accredited. To start with, 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 enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted agencies 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 allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many potential Bakersfield CA employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passage Rate? The majority of California accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you need to learn which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is one of the methods to help assess the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with lower rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and receive 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 decide to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take about 2 years to accomplish in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you elect to pursue, verify that the California colleges you are considering provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? A large number of medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Bakersfield CA area healthcare providers. They are an excellent means to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also assist students establish relationships within the Bakersfield medical community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Finding that first job may be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Bakersfield CA area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to monitor a few classes before choosing a school to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full-time, it's essential that the school you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near Bakersfield CA, verify 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 practical training that may be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Bakersfield CA Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will furnish the appropriate training. Whether you're objective is to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the right info on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many schools offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, confirm that the program you select is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan 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 provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Bakersfield CA.