How to Select the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Homewood Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to join the gratifying profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Homewood AL, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Many future students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors as well. You might want to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to finish your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that process, we have furnished a few questions that you need to ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
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The Function of Medical Assistants
So what do medical assistants do? These professionals typically work in Homewood 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
Unlike most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Homewood AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially two options available for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about a year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs offered at community and junior colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a clinical component involving 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 earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for those who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting employment after graduation, but it can also help with initial salary negotiations. Some potential Homewood AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and arguably 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, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available also, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Programs
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are a good alternative for individuals who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good alternative for students who continue working full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Supplemental costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized as well. Just keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be performed in Homewood AL area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this method of receiving your education might be the ideal option for you. With the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to choose which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. Once those decisions have been made, you can begin the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, some prospective students restrict their searches to the colleges that are closest to Homewood AL with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you must look at when assessing programs. To assist you with that process, following 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 College Accredited? There are many good reasons to verify that the college you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 one of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Homewood AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passing Rate? Most of the accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must determine which of the certifications the programs you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to choose a program targeting 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 means to help assess the quality of a college's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are generally two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can opt to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take approximately two years to accomplish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you elect to pursue, make certain that the colleges you are looking at provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Homewood AL area medical providers. They are an excellent method to get hands-on practical experience and training. They can also help students establish relationships within the Homewood healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Getting that very first job may be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Homewood AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indication of how much individual instruction you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a few classes before selecting a program to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full time, it's important that the school you enroll in offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Homewood AL, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will still have to schedule all clinical training or internships that may be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Homewood Medical Assistant Classes
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant school that will furnish the proper training. Regardless if you're objective is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges offering training these days that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, confirm that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend 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 provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can subsequently begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Homewood Alabama.