How to Choose the Right Medical Assistant Program near Berkeley California
Once you have made a decision to join the rewarding profession 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 comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently pick the right one? Many future students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues also. You may choose to take a look at a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you need to finish your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the schools you are reviewing. And to assist you with that process, we have provided some questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Function of a Medical Assistant
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Primarily their job is ensure that the Berkeley CA clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work run efficiently. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other health practitioners but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving general support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants can perform almost any task they are qualified to under California law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the choices available 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 Programs
Unlike many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not required 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 choices offered for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about one 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 earn an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs offered at California community and junior colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They usually have a clinical element involving an internship with a local healthcare 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.
Medical Assistant Online Programs
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are an excellent choice for individuals who may not have 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 degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, a number of online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Supplemental expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be lessened as well. But keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be performed in Berkeley CA area healthcare 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 choice for you. With the online lessons and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent option for those who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in obtaining employment after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some possible Berkeley CA medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. 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). To qualify to take the CMA exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to determine which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. Once those selections have been made, you can start the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Berkeley CA with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you must explore when researching programs. To assist you with that task, following are some questions that you need to ask about each of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many great reasons to verify that the program you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 program is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Also, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not offered 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 program.
What is the Program's Passage Percentage? Most of the California accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to learn which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Second, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course programs with low rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are generally two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is closer to one year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about 2 years to accomplish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, make certain that the California colleges you are considering offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Berkeley CA area medical care providers. They are a great means to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They can also assist students build relationships within the Berkeley healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Provided? Finding that initial job can be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Confirm 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 high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? 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 prone to offer greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to monitor a couple of classes before enrolling in a college to see what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full time, it's essential that the school you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Berkeley CA, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will still need to schedule any clinical training or internships that may be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
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 college 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 obtain the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, make certain that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can subsequently begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Berkeley CA.