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How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Huntsville Alabama

Huntsville Alabama medical assistant holding patient filesNow that you have made a decision to enter the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Huntsville AL, it's time to choose a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? Many future students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors also. You may want to research a few 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 finish your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that process, we have included several questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.

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The Function of a Medical Assistant

Huntsville Alabama CMA holding door for patient on crutches

The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Basically their function is to make sure that the Huntsville AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care institutions where they work operate successfully. Based 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 responsible for giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the many duties of a medical assistant include:

  • Completing insurance forms and filing claims
  • Scheduling and verifying appointments
  • Weighing and taking patients vital signs
  • Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
  • Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
  • Providing general support during exams and procedures

While medical assistants may perform almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) made available by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

Medical Assistant Training Courses

Huntsville Alabama CMA reading to senior man in skilled nursing facilityUnlike many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, many Huntsville AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially two choices offered for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about a year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs provided at junior and community colleges together with technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.

Certification Options for Medical Assistants

As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good option for individuals who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in getting employment after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. A number of potential Huntsville AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Colleges

Huntsville Alabama young woman taking online medical assistant classesThere are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are an excellent choice for those who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good choice for students who continue working full-time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be minimized also. Just keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be performed in Huntsville AL area medical facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your training might be the ideal choice for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.

Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Schools

Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school options, you have to determine which type of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. After those decisions have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Huntsville 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 explore when assessing schools. To assist you with that process, following are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your final choice.

Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are several good reasons to make certain that the college you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, 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 allowed to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many prospective Huntsville AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.

What is the Program's Passage Rate? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must learn which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Next, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the ways to help assess the quality of a college's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.

Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately two years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, confirm that the schools you are considering offer the type of program you are interested in.

Are Internships Offered? Numerous medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Huntsville AL area medical providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students develop relationships within the Huntsville health care community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.

Is Job Placement Help Provided? Finding that first job can be a challenging undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Huntsville AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in jobs.

How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual attention you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to attend a few classes before choosing a school to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students receive.

Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the program you select offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near Huntsville AL, make certain that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will still need to schedule any clinical training or internships that might be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.

How to Be a Medical Assistant in Huntsville

Enroll in the Right Huntsville Medical Assistant Classes

It's important to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Whether you're planning to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make certain that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the type 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 supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the best program you can subsequently start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Huntsville Alabama.




 

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