How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Decatur Alabama
Once you have made a decision to become a part of the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Decatur AL, it's time to choose a college that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Most potential students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues as well. You might choose to look into several online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are examining. And to help you with that process, we have included a few questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are available.
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The Function of a Medical Assistant
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 Decatur 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 Training Programs
Compared to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Decatur AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially two choices provided for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about 1 year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs provided at junior and community colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They frequently have a practical element involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for those who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining a job after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Decatur AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are an excellent choice for those who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good option for students who continue to work full time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Supplemental costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be lessened also. Just keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be completed in Decatur AL area health care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this method of receiving your education might be the best option for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to determine which kind of credential you would like to attain, 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 process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of students restrict their searches to the colleges that are closest to Decatur AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you need to look at when researching programs. To assist 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 final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are several good reasons to make sure that the school you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged agencies for accreditation are the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). If your school is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Decatur AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School's Passage Percentage? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must learn which of the certifications the schools you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will want to select a program concentrating on that certification. Second, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are generally two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma 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 elect to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require approximately two years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, make certain that the colleges you are reviewing provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Decatur AL area medical providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on practical training and experience. They may also help students develop relationships within the Decatur health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Supplied? Landing that very first job may be a challenging undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Decatur AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual attention you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a few classes before choosing a program to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the school you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near Decatur AL, confirm that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will still need to schedule all clinical training or internships that might be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Decatur Medical Assistant College
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will furnish the proper training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must get the right information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of schools providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless 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, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can ultimately start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Decatur Alabama.