How to Choose the Right Medical Assistant School Program Near Decatur Alabama
Now that you have decided to join the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Decatur AL, it's time to select a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the ideal one? Many potential students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues also. You may decide to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you must carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the schools you are assessing. And to help you with that process, we have included some questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
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The Role of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Primarily their job is ensure that the Decatur AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work operate efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the many responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some opt 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) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Programs
Unlike many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, many Decatur AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally 2 options available for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about 1 year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs offered at junior and community colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a practical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for individuals who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining a job after graduation, but it may also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible Decatur AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and arguably the most respected 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 have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Programs
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are a good choice for those who might not have the time to attend 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 extra benefit, many online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be minimized as well. Just remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be carried out in Decatur AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of getting your education might be the best choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which type of credential you want to earn, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. After those decisions have been made, you can begin the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some potential students restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Decatur AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you should examine when assessing schools. To assist you with that task, following are a few questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to ensure that the program you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 program is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Decatur AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? The majority of accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to learn which of the certifications the schools you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will want to select a program targeting that certification. Second, learn what the school'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 college's program. Of course schools with low rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require about 2 years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to enroll in, verify that the schools you are considering offer the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Decatur AL area medical care providers. They are a great means to receive hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students develop relationships within the Decatur healthcare community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Supplied? Finding that first job may be a daunting task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Decatur AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to attend a few classes before selecting a college to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and 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 school you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Decatur AL, make sure that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also have to schedule any clinical training or internships that might be required. Additionally, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Decatur Medical Assistant Program
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will furnish the appropriate training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend 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 in order to compare 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.