How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Birmingham Alabama
Once you have decided to enter the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Birmingham AL, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? A number of prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues as well. You might want to research some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must finish your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are reviewing. And to assist you with that task, we have provided some questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
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The Function of Medical Assistants
The most versatile health professional in any Alabama healthcare setting, a medical assistant juggles both clinical and administrative assignments. Medical assistants often initiate medical appointments by escorting patients to examination rooms, taking vital signs and preparing the room for the next member of the medical team. They also handle a range of office tasks, from coding medical records to scheduling office visits. As a medical assistant, you’ll need strong interpersonal skills as you work with patients in pain and distress. You’ll also work closely with other Birmingham medical professionals, often facing a great deal of pressure. Other traits that will serve you well: analytical skills (crucial for interpreting medical charts and diagnoses) and a penchant for detailed work.
Medical Assistant Training Programs
Compared to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Birmingham AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically two options available for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about one year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs offered at junior and community colleges together with technical and vocational schools. They are more expansive in design than the diploma or certificate 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 medical facility. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent idea for those who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in securing a job after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many potential Birmingham AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. 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). To qualify to take the CMA exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Colleges
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are an excellent alternative for students who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good alternative for students who continue working full-time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, many online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be lessened also. Just remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be completed in Birmingham AL area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your training might be the best option for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to examining your medical assistant school options, you need to choose which type of credential you want to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, some potential students confine their searches to the schools that are nearest to Birmingham AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional factors that you must look at when evaluating schools. To help you with that task, below are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to ensure 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. Second, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 program is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many prospective Birmingham AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passage Rate? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you must learn which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Second, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course schools with low rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Available? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can decide to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require approximately 2 years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, make sure that the colleges you are reviewing offer the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? Many medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Birmingham AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent way to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They can also help students develop relationships within the Birmingham medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Service Supplied? Finding that very first job can be a difficult task for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Birmingham AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will get throughout your training. Small 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 practical, try to monitor a few classes before choosing a program to witness 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 school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the school you choose 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 offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will still need to schedule any internships or practical training that may be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Birmingham Medical Assistant Program
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will furnish the proper training. Whether you're objective is to begin 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 before making your selection. There are such a large number of schools offering training these days that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Birmingham Alabama.