How to Enroll In the Right CMA Degree Program near Castro Valley California
Once you have decided to enter the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Castro Valley CA, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating colleges so that you subsequently pick the ideal one? A number of prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors as well. You might want to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the colleges you are examining. And to assist you with that process, we have included some questions that you should ask each of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Job of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Primarily their job is ensure that the Castro Valley CA hospitals, clinics and other medical care centers where they work run 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 support to the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals but may also be found working 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 confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may perform almost any activity they are qualified to under California law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the options 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 Education
Compared to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, many Castro Valley CA health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically two choices provided for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about 1 year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs available at California junior and community colleges together with vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a practical component involving an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are an excellent alternative for those who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good choice for California students who continue to work full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be minimized also. But keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be completed in Castro Valley CA area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your training might be the ideal option for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent option for individuals who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a position after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of potential Castro Valley CA medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need 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 selections have been made, you can begin the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, a number of potential students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Castro Valley CA with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you must explore when assessing schools. To help you with that process, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are several good reasons to make sure that the program you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you need to 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 school is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Castro Valley CA employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School's Passing Percentage? The majority of California accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must determine which of the certifications the schools you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to select a program focused on that certification. Second, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing 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 Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and receive 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 opt to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, make certain that the California colleges you are reviewing offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Castro Valley CA area healthcare providers. They are a great means to get hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also help students establish relationships within the Castro Valley medical community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Finding that very first job can be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Castro Valley CA area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much individual instruction you will receive during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before enrolling in a college to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full time, it's important that the college you enroll in offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Castro Valley CA, confirm that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will also have to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Castro Valley CA Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many schools offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, confirm that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. 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, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the best program you can subsequently start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Castro Valley CA.