How to Select the Right Medical Assistant Course Near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have decided to become a part of the gratifying profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Birmingham AL, it's time to select a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately pick the right one? Most potential students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors also. You might decide to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The main point is that before you select a college you must complete your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the colleges you are examining. And to assist you with that process, we have provided some questions that you need to ask all of the colleges on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
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The Duties of Medical Assistants
A Medical Assistant is a highly important and varied position within the Alabama healthcare field. Broadly speaking, a Medical Assistant is responsible for working alongside Birmingham physicians and nurses to provide support in administrative and clinical duties. In smaller practices, Medical Assistants will typically be involved in both administrative and clinical work. While in larger practices, Medical Assistants will often be devoted to one area or another and be highly specialized in their individual duties. Whatever role a Medial Assistant plays, it is vital to the overall organization and central to timely and appropriate care of patients.
Medical Assistant Education
Unlike many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Birmingham AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally 2 options provided for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about a year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs available at junior and community colleges together with vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are often 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 previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for individuals who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in getting a job after graduation, but it might also enhance initial salary negotiations. Some possible Birmingham AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and possibly 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 exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Colleges
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are a good choice for students who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good solution for students who continue to work full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be reduced also. Just bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be performed in Birmingham AL area health care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this mode of getting your education may be the right choice for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school options, you must choose which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some prospective students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to Birmingham AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to examine when researching programs. To assist you with that process, below are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to ensure that the school you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged agencies for accreditation are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If your school is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Birmingham AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you must determine which of the certifications the schools you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will want to choose a program targeting that certification. Second, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with low rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can choose to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about 2 years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the colleges you are reviewing provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Birmingham AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent means to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They may also assist students build relationships within the Birmingham medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Supplied? Getting that initial job can be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Birmingham AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much personal attention you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a couple of classes before choosing a program to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full time, it's essential that the college you enroll in offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, verify that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will still have to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Birmingham Medical Assistant College
It's essential 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 launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to get the right information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many schools offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, verify that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Birmingham Alabama.