How to Find the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have decided to enter the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Birmingham AL, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the right one? Many future students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You may choose to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about 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 process, we have provided some questions that you need to ask all of the colleges on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
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The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their job is to make sure that the Birmingham AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare centers where they work operate efficiently. 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 giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other health professionals but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and attain 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 Programs
In contrast to many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Birmingham AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically 2 choices offered 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 a year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs available at junior and community colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts 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 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 Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good idea for those who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in getting employment after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Birmingham AL medical employers simply will not hire 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) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to take the CMA examination, 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, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online as well. They are a good option for those who might not have the time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good alternative for students who continue working full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be minimized as well. Just bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be carried out in Birmingham AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your education might be the right option for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school options, you have to decide which kind of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. Once those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many students confine their searches to the colleges that are nearest 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 issues that you should explore when evaluating programs. To assist you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are several great reasons to ensure that the college 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 plan on becoming certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the approved organizations 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 either of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan 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 potential Birmingham AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you must find out which of the certifications the schools you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will want to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Next, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the means to help assess the quality of a college's program. Naturally programs with low rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Provided? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and obtain 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 earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require approximately 2 years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, make certain that the colleges you are reviewing offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Birmingham AL area medical providers. They are a great way to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Birmingham healthcare community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Service Furnished? Getting that very first job can be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Birmingham AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has a good 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 Classrooms? Class size may be an indication of how much individual attention you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If possible, try to monitor a couple of classes before choosing a program to witness what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue working full-time, it's essential that the college you enroll in offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will also need to schedule any internships or practical training that might be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Birmingham Medical Assistant Program
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you're goal is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must acquire the appropriate information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools offering training these days that you can make a decision based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Birmingham Alabama.