Home >> California >> Berkeley >> How To Become A Medical Assistant


Become a Medical Assistant Berkeley CA 94701

How to Find the Best CMA Training Program near Berkeley California

Berkeley CA medical assistant with medical chartOnce you have made a decision to join the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Berkeley 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 subsequently enroll in the right one? Many prospective students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors also. You may decide to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the colleges you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have included a few questions that you need to ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.

The Job of Medical Assistants

Berkeley CA medical assistant taking vital signs of patient

The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Primarily their role is to make sure that the Berkeley CA hospitals, clinics and other medical care facilities where they work run successfully. Depending on the type or size 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 physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the possible functions of a medical assistant include:

  • Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
  • Scheduling and confirming appointments
  • Taking vital signs and weighing patients
  • Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
  • Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
  • Supplying basic support during exams and procedures

While medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are authorized to under California law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and attain 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

Berkeley CA CMA welcoming patientCompared to most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Berkeley 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 basically 2 options available for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about a year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs offered at California junior and community colleges together with vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a clinical component 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 Options for Medical Assistants

As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for individuals who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining employment after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible Berkeley CA medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. 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 take the CMA exam, a candidate 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 provided by the NHA.

Online Medical Assistant Colleges

Berkeley California student attending medical assistant classes onlineThere are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are a good option for students who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good choice for California students who continue working full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened also. But remember that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be completed in Berkeley CA area medical facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your education might be the best choice for you. With the online classes and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.

Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Programs

Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to determine which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. Once those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many prospective students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to Berkeley CA with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you must explore when researching schools. To help you with that task, below are some questions that you need to ask about each of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate selection.

Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are several good reasons to confirm that the college you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, 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 either of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many potential Berkeley CA employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.

What is the School's Passage Percentage? Most of the California accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must 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 select a program targeting that certification. Second, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with lower rates are ones that you will want to eliminate.

Which Credentials are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are generally two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately 2 years to complete in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, verify that the California colleges you are considering offer the type of program you are interested in.

Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Berkeley CA area medical providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They may also help students establish relationships within the Berkeley healthcare community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Getting that initial job can be a difficult task for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Berkeley CA area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also suggests that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in positions.

How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual instruction 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 possible, try to monitor a couple of classes before selecting a school to witness what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.

Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue working full-time, it's important that the school you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Berkeley CA, make certain that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will still have to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

Enroll in the Right Berkeley CA Medical Assistant SchoolCourse

It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Whether you're objective is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to get the right info on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of schools providing training these days that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can subsequently begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Berkeley CA.