How to Select the Best Medical Assistant Course Near Fort Payne Alabama
Once you have decided to join the gratifying profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Fort Payne AL, it's time to choose a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Many potential students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes 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 critical factors also. You might want to research some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have included several questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
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The Duties of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their function is ensure that the Fort Payne AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care institutions where they work operate successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the nurses, doctors and other health professionals but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing general support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may perform almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and attain certification. Two of the choices offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training
Unlike most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, many Fort Payne AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially two options provided for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about a year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs offered at community and junior colleges together with technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They usually have a practical element requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are often 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 Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for individuals who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a position after graduation, but it may also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Fort Payne AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained 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 sit for the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available also, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are a good choice for students who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good alternative for students who continue working full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, a number of online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be reduced as well. Just bear in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be carried out in Fort Payne AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your education might be the right option for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school options, you must decide which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can start the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to Fort Payne AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you need to examine when researching programs. To help you with that process, below are some questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are several great reasons to ensure that the school you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the education 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 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 program is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many prospective Fort Payne AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you need to determine which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will want to choose a program focused on that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the means to help assess the quality of a school's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can elect to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take about 2 years to accomplish in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you elect to pursue, confirm that the colleges you are considering offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Fort Payne AL area health care providers. They are a great way to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also assist students build relationships within the Fort Payne medical community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Provided? Getting that very first job may be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Fort Payne AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to instructors and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a few classes before selecting a school to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full-time, it's essential that the college you enroll in provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends near Fort Payne AL, make sure that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will also need to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Fort Payne Medical Assistant Program
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you're planning to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to get the appropriate info on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many schools offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can subsequently begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Fort Payne Alabama.