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How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant School Program Near Homewood Alabama

Homewood Alabama medical assistant carrying patient filesOnce you have made a decision to join the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Homewood AL, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately pick the right one? Many potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors as well. You may want to look into several online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have included a few questions that you should ask each of the schools on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.

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The Duties of a Medical Assistant

Homewood Alabama medical assistant greeting patient using crutches

Medical assistants are specially-trained health care providers who work closely with patients, nurses, and doctors and perform a variety of clinical and administrative tasks associated with running a medical office. Clinical duties a medical assistant performs include taking and recording a patient’s vital signs, collecting a patient’s medical history, assisting physicians with patient exams, giving injections or medications as directed by a physician, sterilizing medical supplies and disposing of medical waste. In addition to clinical work, medical assistants perform many administrative tasks such as updating and maintaining patient charts, assisting with medical billing, managing medical records, filing insurance claims and scheduling patient appointments. With a range of duties, Homewood AL medical assistants have the opportunity to participate in many of the day-to-day operations of a medical office, hospital department or private practice.

Medical Assistant Training

Homewood Alabama CMA working with senior man in nursing homeUnlike many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Homewood AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially 2 choices offered for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about 1 year to finish, a few 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 earn an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs available at junior and community colleges in addition to technical and vocational schools. They are more expansive in design than the diploma or certificate 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 healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are often 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 Programs for Medical Assistants

As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good option for those who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a position after graduation, but it might also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many potential Homewood AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available as well, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Schools

Homewood Alabama young female attending online medical assistant trainingThere are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online also. They are an excellent alternative 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 to work full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, many online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be lessened also. But keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be performed in Homewood AL area health care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this mode of getting your education might be the ideal option for you. With the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.

Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Programs

Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to decide which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. After those selections have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to Homewood AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you must look at when evaluating programs. To assist you with that process, below are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.

Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to confirm that the program you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 school is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many potential Homewood 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 schools create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. 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 of course you will need to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Second, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.

Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are basically two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and receive 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 more comprehensive education that will require about two years to accomplish in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, make certain that the colleges you are looking at offer the kind of program you are interested in.

Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Homewood AL area health care providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on practical training and experience. They may also assist students develop relationships within the Homewood medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Service Furnished? Getting that initial job may be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Homewood AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in positions.

How Big are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to attend a couple of classes before choosing a college to observe what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.

Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it's essential that the program you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Homewood AL, make certain that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will still have to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family issues.

How to Be a Medical Assistant in Homewood

Enroll in the Right Homewood Medical Assistant Training

It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will provide the proper training. Regardless if you're goal is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to acquire the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. 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 covered in this article, make sure that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Homewood Alabama.




 

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