How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Decatur Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to join the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Decatur AL, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? A number of future students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors as well. 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 program you must finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are evaluating. And to help you with that process, we have furnished a few questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
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The Duties of Medical Assistants
Medical assistants play an important role in the modern healthcare industry, providing assistance to other professionals and helping attend to patients. A medical assistant’s typical job responsibilities include preparing patients for examinations; taking medical histories; administering medication as requested by the attending physician; performing electrocardiograms; changing wound dressings or removing stitches; collecting samples for lab testing; serving as liaisons between doctors and patients; and fulfilling various administrative functions. These cross-disciplinary medical professionals work across various Alabama healthcare settings, concentrated in Decatur outpatient clinics, medical offices, and other ambulatory care facilities. In some cases, CMAs (Certified Medical Assistants) have additional specialized certifications allowing them to fulfill other clinical responsibilities. For example, a CMA with a specialization in chiropractic care may assist a chiropractor during an adjustment, whereas a medical assistant who works in the office of an optometrist or ophthalmologist may help with an eye examination.
Medical Assistant Programs
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Decatur AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically two options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about a year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed 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 usually 2 year programs offered at junior and community colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They frequently have a practical element involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are commonly 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 previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for those who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in securing employment after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Some potential Decatur AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and perhaps 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 exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered 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 a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are an excellent alternative for students who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good choice for students who continue to work full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, many online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Ancillary costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be minimized also. But bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually 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 approach to receiving your education may be the best choice for you. Between the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. Once those selections have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to Decatur AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you must examine when researching programs. To assist you with that process, following are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to make sure that the school you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, 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 allowed to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Decatur AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passage Rate? The majority of accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to determine which of the certifications the colleges you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Second, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about 1 year. Or you can elect to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require about 2 years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, confirm that the colleges you are looking at provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Decatur AL area health care providers. They are an excellent method to receive hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also help students establish relationships within the Decatur healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Furnished? Finding that initial 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 provide job placement assistance in the Decatur AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much personal attention you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a few classes before choosing a school to observe what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the college you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Decatur AL, verify that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will still need to schedule all clinical training or internships that may be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Decatur Medical Assistant School
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will furnish the right training. Whether you're planning to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, verify that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you anticipate 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 online or on-campus school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Decatur Alabama.