How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant School Program Near Alabaster Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Alabaster AL, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the right one? A number of potential students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors also. You may choose to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are assessing. And to assist you with that process, we have furnished some questions that you need to ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
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The Function of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their duty is to make sure that the Alabaster AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work operate efficiently. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other health professionals but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Supplying basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and earn 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 most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, many Alabaster AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally two options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about one year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs available at 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 usually have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent idea for individuals who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in securing a job after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Some possible Alabaster AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and perhaps the most highly regarded 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. Other certifications are available also, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Courses
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are a good choice for students who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good choice for students who continue to work full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an additional 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 minimized as well. Just remember that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Alabaster AL area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of receiving your education might be the right choice for you. Between the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must decide which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. As soon as those decisions have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students confine their searches to the schools that are nearest to Alabaster AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you need to look at when evaluating programs. To assist you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to make certain that the school you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 school is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Alabaster AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? The majority of accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you must learn which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will want to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Next, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Naturally programs with low rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can decide to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about 2 years to complete in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Alabaster AL area health care providers. They are an excellent method to obtain hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the Alabaster health care community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Supplied? Getting that very first job can be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Alabaster AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a few classes before choosing a program to witness what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full time, it's important that the college you enroll in offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Alabaster AL, make sure that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online college, but you will also need to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Alabaster Medical Assistant School
It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant school that will provide the right training. Regardless if you're goal is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must acquire the appropriate information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many colleges offering training these days that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, verify that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially 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 compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can ultimately start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Alabaster Alabama.