How to Select an Accredited CMA School near Berkeley California
Now that you have decided to join the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Berkeley CA, it's time to choose a school that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately pick the best one? Many potential students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues as well. You may want to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you must complete your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that process, we have provided several questions that you should ask each 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 training and credentials that are available.
The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Primarily their duty is to make sure that the Berkeley CA clinics, hospitals 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 assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are authorized to under California law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options 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 Training Courses
In contrast to most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Berkeley CA health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about one year to finish, some 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 option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs offered at California community and junior colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They often have a clinical element involving an internship with a local medical practice. 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 related field.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who may not have the time to attend 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 earning their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be reduced also. But bear in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be completed in Berkeley CA area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to getting your education might be the right option for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good option for individuals who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in getting employment after graduation, but it may also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many potential Berkeley 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) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school options, you have to determine which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to Berkeley CA with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you must examine when evaluating programs. To help you with that task, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are several good reasons to ensure that the college you select 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 need to 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 either of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan 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 program.
What is the School's Passage Rate? Most of the California accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to learn which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will want to enroll in a program concentrating on that certification. Second, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the means to help assess the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with lower rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are generally 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, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can opt to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take about two years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, confirm that the California colleges you are considering provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Berkeley CA area medical care providers. They are a great way to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also help students build relationships within the Berkeley health care community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Supplied? Getting that first job can be a challenging task 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 Berkeley CA area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal attention you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a couple of classes before selecting a program 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 school while you continue to work full time, it's important that the college you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Berkeley CA, make sure that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will still have to schedule all internships or clinical training that may be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Berkeley CA Medical Assistant Program
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will furnish the appropriate training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the appropriate information on available programs before making your decision. There are so many colleges providing training these days that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, verify that the program you decide on 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 plan to earn or if you have decided 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 ideal program you can ultimately start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Berkeley CA.