How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Hartselle Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to join the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Hartselle AL, it's time to select a school that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? Many prospective students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors also. You might want to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are assessing. And to assist you with that task, we have included a few questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
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The Duties of Medical Assistants
The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Basically their job is to make sure that the Hartselle AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work run successfully. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the possible functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants may perform almost any task they are qualified to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and attain certification. Two of the options available 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
In contrast to most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, many Hartselle AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially two options provided for a formal education. The first and quickest way to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about a year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs provided at community and junior colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They usually have a clinical component involving an internship with a local healthcare practice. 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 similar field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for individuals who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in attaining a job after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Hartselle AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available as well, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are an excellent choice for individuals who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good solution for students who continue to work full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, a number of online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Supplemental expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be reduced also. But remember that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be performed in Hartselle AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your education may be the best choice for you. With the online lessons and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to choose which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. After those choices have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some students confine their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Hartselle AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to examine when evaluating schools. To help you with that task, following are some questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many great reasons to confirm that the school you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 program is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, many potential Hartselle AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Percentage? The majority of accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you must learn which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will need to choose a program focused on that certification. Second, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with low rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Available? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest 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 receive a broader education that will take approximately 2 years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, verify that the schools you are reviewing offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Hartselle AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent method to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also assist students build relationships within the Hartselle healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Offered? Finding that first job may be a daunting undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Hartselle AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also suggests that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will receive during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a couple of classes before selecting a school to witness what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full time, it's important that the college you enroll in provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Hartselle AL, confirm that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will still need to schedule any internships or clinical training that may 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 responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Hartselle Medical Assistant Course
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you're planning to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must get the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of schools providing training these days 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 decide on is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Hartselle Alabama.