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How to Pick the Best Medical Assistant Course Near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama medical assistant holding patient chartOnce you have made a decision to become a part of the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Birmingham AL, it's time to choose a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? Most future students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You might want to research a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are reviewing. And to help you with that process, we have included a few questions that you should ask all of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.

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The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant

Birmingham Alabama medical assistant holding door for man using crutches

Medical assistants are specially-trained health care providers who work closely with patients, nurses, and doctors and perform a variety of clinical and administrative tasks associated with running a medical office. Clinical duties a medical assistant performs include taking and recording a patient’s vital signs, collecting a patient’s medical history, assisting physicians with patient exams, giving injections or medications as directed by a physician, sterilizing medical supplies and disposing of medical waste. In addition to clinical work, medical assistants perform many administrative tasks such as updating and maintaining patient charts, assisting with medical billing, managing medical records, filing insurance claims and scheduling patient appointments. With a range of duties, Birmingham AL medical assistants have the opportunity to participate in many of the day-to-day operations of a medical office, hospital department or private practice.

Medical Assistant Training Courses

Birmingham Alabama medical assistant working with senior man in assisted living facilityUnlike many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Birmingham AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally 2 choices 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 generally 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 prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to earn an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs provided at junior and community colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare 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 similar field.

Certification Options for Medical Assistants

As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for those who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in securing a position after graduation, but it may also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many potential Birmingham AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered 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 thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Colleges

Birmingham Alabama young woman attending online medical assistant coursesThere are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are a good alternative for students 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 alternative for students who continue to work full-time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, a number of online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Supplemental expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be reduced as well. But remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be performed in Birmingham AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your training might be the ideal choice for you. With the online courses 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 have to decide which kind 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 procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students restrict their searches to the colleges that are closest to Birmingham AL with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you need to look at when assessing schools. To assist you with that task, following are some questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your final choice.

Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are many good reasons to confirm that the college you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you must complete 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 one of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, 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 Rate? The majority of accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you must determine which of the certifications the programs you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will need to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Second, learn what the program'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. Obviously schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.

Which Programs are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are generally two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and obtain entry level training in the shortest 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 receive a broader education that will require about 2 years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, make certain that the schools you are looking at offer the kind of program you are interested in.

Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Birmingham AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent method to get hands-on practical training and experience. They can also assist students build relationships within the Birmingham health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.

Is Job Placement Service Provided? Finding that initial job may be a difficult task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some 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 college has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in jobs.

How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much personal attention you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a couple of classes before enrolling in a college to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students receive.

Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working on a full time basis, it's essential that the college you select provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, confirm that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will also need to schedule all clinical training or internships that may be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family issues.

Train to Be a Medical Assistant in Birmingham

Enroll in the Right Birmingham Medical Assistant School

It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will furnish the proper training. Whether you're planning to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must get the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of schools providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, confirm that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged organization, 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 so you can evaluate 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.




 

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