How to Select the Right Medical Assistant School Program Near Helena Alabama
Now that you have decided to become a part of the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Helena AL, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? A number of prospective students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important factors also. You may choose to research some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the colleges you are evaluating. And to assist you with that process, we have furnished several questions that you should ask all of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.
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The Role of a Medical Assistant
So what do medical assistants do? These professionals typically work in Helena AL physicians’ offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers. They’re responsible for both clinical and administrative tasks, taking on varied responsibilities such as answering phones; managing appointment schedules; maintaining patient records; greeting patients; coding medical information; processing billing and bookkeeping; coordinating services with other healthcare providers; recording medical histories; collecting lab samples; cleaning examination rooms; and doing basic lab tests. Some of these healthcare professionals may even draw blood, administer medication, perform electrocardiograms, remove stitches, discard biohazardous waste, and change wound dressings. These duties vary based on experience, specialized training, certification, and even state of practice.
Medical Assistant Programs
In contrast to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Helena AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 options available for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about one year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs available at community and junior colleges in addition to technical and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a practical component requiring 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 Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for graduates who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting a job after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. Some potential Helena AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and possibly 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 be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are a good alternative for students who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good solution for students who continue working full time while earning their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be lessened as well. But keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be completed in Helena AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your education might be the ideal option for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must decide which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. Once those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to Helena AL with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you should explore when researching programs. To help you with that task, following are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many good reasons to confirm that the college you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged organizations 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 either of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Helena AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passage Rate? Most of the accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must determine which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will want to choose a program targeting that certification. Next, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and receive 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 get a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, confirm that the colleges you are considering provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Helena AL area medical providers. They are a great method to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also assist students develop relationships within the Helena healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Provided? Landing that first job may be a challenging task for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Helena AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a high 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 employers to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size can 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 offer greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a few classes before selecting a college to witness 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 college while you continue to work full-time, it's essential that the program you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Helena AL, make sure that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will also need to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Helena Medical Assistant School
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant program that will furnish the appropriate training. Whether you're goal is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must acquire the appropriate information on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon 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 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 supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Helena Alabama.