How to Enroll In an Accredited Medical Assistant Degree Program near Chico California
Once you have decided to join the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Chico CA, it's time to select a college that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently pick the best one? Most future students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors as well. You may want to research several online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are reviewing. And to assist you with that task, we have furnished some questions that you need to ask each of the schools 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 type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The function of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Primarily their function is ensure that the Chico CA clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work operate successfully. Depending 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 responsible for providing direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming 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 prefer to specialize in a specific area and earn 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
In contrast to many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Chico CA health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about a year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs provided at California community and junior colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a clinical component involving an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are a good alternative for those who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good option for California students who continue working full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be reduced as well. Just remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be completed in Chico CA area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of getting your education may be the ideal option for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for those who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Chico CA medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate 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 provided by the NHA.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to decide which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. Once those choices have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to Chico CA with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should explore when researching schools. To help you with that process, following 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 School Accredited? There are many good reasons to verify that the college you choose 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 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 agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Also, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Chico CA employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passing Percentage? The majority of California accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to determine which of the certifications the programs you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to select a program concentrating on that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are ones that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially 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, however the average is about one year. Or you can elect to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take about two years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you elect to pursue, make sure that the California schools you are considering offer the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Chico CA area medical care providers. They are a great means to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They may also assist students establish relationships within the Chico health care community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Offered? Landing that first job can be a daunting undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Chico CA area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college 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 broad network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a school to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full time, it's important that the school you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Chico CA, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will still have to schedule all internships or clinical training that will be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family issues.
Choose the Right Chico CA Medical Assistant Program
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you're objective is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must obtain the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make certain that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can ultimately start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Chico CA.