How to Enroll In an Accredited Medical Assistant School Program near Berkeley California
Once you have decided to enter the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Berkeley CA, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately pick the best one? Many potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors also. You might decide to research some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that process, we have included some questions that you need to ask each of the colleges on your short list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.
The Duties of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Essentially their function is ensure that the Berkeley CA hospitals, clinics 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 responsible for providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the possible functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying general support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are authorized to under California law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the choices available 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 medical professionals, 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 school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially two options available for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs generally take about one year to finish, some as little as six to nine 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 typically 2 year programs available at California junior and community colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a clinical element involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for those who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in attaining a position after graduation, but it might also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Many potential 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 arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to take the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are a good choice for students who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good solution for California students who continue working full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, a number of online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be minimized as well. But keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Berkeley CA area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your training may be the best option for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you must decide which kind of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. After those decisions have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some potential students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Berkeley CA with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you should explore when evaluating programs. To assist you with that process, below are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are several great reasons to make certain that the program you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved organizations 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 one of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many prospective Berkeley CA employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? The majority of California accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to learn which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will need to select a program targeting that certification. Next, learn 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 evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with lower rates are ones that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can elect to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, confirm that the California colleges you are reviewing offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Berkeley CA area healthcare providers. They are a great way to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Berkeley medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Supplied? Finding that very first job may be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Berkeley CA area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much individual attention you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If practical, try to attend a couple of classes before selecting a school to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's important that the school you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Berkeley CA, verify that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online college, but you will also have to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family issues.
Choose the Right Berkeley CA Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant school that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you're goal is to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to acquire the right information on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges providing training these days that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make certain that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless 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 choosing the ideal program you can subsequently begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Berkeley CA.