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Become a Medical Assistant Berkeley CA 94701

How to Select the Right Medical Assistant Program near Berkeley California

Berkeley CA CMA holding patient chartNow that you have made a decision to enter the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Berkeley CA, it's time to select a college that will provide the proper training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently pick the ideal one? A number of prospective students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues as well. You may want to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you must complete your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are assessing. And to help you with that task, we have included a few questions that you need to ask all of the colleges on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.

The Responsibilities 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. Basically their job is ensure that the Berkeley CA hospitals, clinics and other medical care centers where they work operate successfully. Based on the type or size of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the possible functions of a medical assistant include:

  • Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
  • Setting and confirming 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 activity they are qualified to under California law, some prefer to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the options offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

Medical Assistant Training

Berkeley CA CMA greeting patientCompared to many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Berkeley CA health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially two choices provided for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about a year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs provided at California community and junior colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They frequently have a practical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare 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 similar field.

Certification Options for Medical Assistants

As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good option for graduates who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in getting a job after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many possible Berkeley CA medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. Among 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). In order to apply for the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Schools

Berkeley California student attending medical assistant online classesThere are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are an excellent option for individuals who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good solution for California students who continue working full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be reduced as well. Just keep in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be carried out in Berkeley CA area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your training may be the right choice for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.

Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Schools

Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. Once those decisions have been made, you can start the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, some students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to Berkeley CA with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you should look at when assessing programs. To help you with that process, following are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your final selection.

Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are several good reasons to verify that the program you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 program is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Berkeley 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 design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to 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 obviously you will want to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Next, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.

Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to getting 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 closer to one year. Or you can opt to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will take approximately two years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, confirm that the California colleges you are reviewing provide the type of program you have an interest in.

Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Berkeley CA area health care providers. They are an excellent method to get hands-on practical training and experience. They may also assist students establish relationships within the Berkeley healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Support Provided? Landing that very first job can be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are interviewing 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 students, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.

How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much personal instruction you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a couple of classes before enrolling in a program to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.

Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full-time, it's essential that the program you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends near Berkeley CA, make certain that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, but you will still have to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Additionally, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Enroll in the Best Berkeley CA Medical Assistant Training

It's important to start 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 begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. 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 addressed in this article, confirm that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type 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 compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Berkeley CA.