How to Enroll In the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have decided to become a part of the gratifying field of healthcare 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 approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Many future students begin by evaluating 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 important factors also. You may want to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are examining. And to help you with that process, we have included some questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
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The Role of a Medical Assistant
The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their job is ensure that the Birmingham AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work operate successfully. Depending on the type or size of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may carry out almost any activity they are authorized to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and obtain 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 Courses
In contrast to many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Birmingham AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 choices provided for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about 1 year to complete, a few 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 alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs provided at junior and community colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good choice for those who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Birmingham AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to apply for the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are a good alternative for those who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good solution for students who continue to work full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be minimized also. But keep in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be carried out in Birmingham AL area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to getting your training may be the ideal choice for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. After those selections have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, some students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to Birmingham AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you need to look at when researching programs. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several good reasons to verify that the college you select is accredited. To start with, 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 must complete an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 school is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Birmingham AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passing Percentage? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to select a program targeting that certification. Next, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course schools with low rates are ones that you will want to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can decide to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take approximately two years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, make sure that the colleges you are reviewing provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Birmingham AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent means to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They can also help students establish relationships within the Birmingham healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Finding that first job may be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Birmingham AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent 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 Classrooms? Class size may 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 provide increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a few classes before enrolling in a program to witness what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work full time, it's imperative that the college you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Birmingham AL, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will still have to schedule all internships or clinical training that may be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Birmingham Medical Assistant School
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant program that will furnish the proper training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, confirm that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan 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 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 ultimately start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Birmingham Alabama.