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How to Select the Right Medical Assistant School Program Near Huntsville Alabama

Huntsville Alabama medical assistant holding patient filesOnce you have made a decision to join the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Huntsville AL, it's time to choose a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? Most prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important factors also. You might choose to look into some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you must carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have included several questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.

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The Role of Medical Assistants

Huntsville Alabama medical assistant greeting man using crutches

Medical assistants play an important role in the modern healthcare industry, providing assistance to other professionals and helping attend to patients. A medical assistant’s typical job responsibilities include preparing patients for examinations; taking medical histories; administering medication as requested by the attending physician; performing electrocardiograms; changing wound dressings or removing stitches; collecting samples for lab testing; serving as liaisons between doctors and patients; and fulfilling various administrative functions. These cross-disciplinary medical professionals work across various Alabama healthcare settings, concentrated in Huntsville outpatient clinics, medical offices, and other ambulatory care facilities. In some cases, CMAs (Certified Medical Assistants) have additional specialized certifications allowing them to fulfill other clinical responsibilities. For example, a CMA with a specialization in chiropractic care may assist a chiropractor during an adjustment, whereas a medical assistant who works in the office of an optometrist or ophthalmologist may help with an eye examination.

Medical Assistant Education

Huntsville Alabama CMA reading to senior patient in nursing homeCompared to many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Huntsville AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally two choices offered for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about one year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs available at community and junior colleges in addition to 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 element involving an internship with a local medical facility. 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 related field.

Certification Options for Medical Assistants

As stated previously, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for individuals who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it might also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of potential Huntsville AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to apply for the CMA exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Programs

Huntsville Alabama young woman attending online medical assistant coursesThere are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good alternative for students who continue working full time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, a number of online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be minimized also. Just remember that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be performed in Huntsville AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your education might be the best option for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.

Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Programs

Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school options, you have to decide which kind of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. Once those decisions have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some students limit their searches to the schools that are closest to Huntsville AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you should examine when researching programs. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate selection.

Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several good reasons to make certain that the college you select is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in 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 agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Huntsville AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.

What is the School's Passing Percentage? Most of the accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you must determine which of the certifications the schools you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Next, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Naturally programs with low rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.

Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to finish in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, confirm that the schools you are looking at offer the type of program you are interested in.

Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Huntsville AL area medical care providers. They are a great method to receive hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students develop relationships within the Huntsville medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Help Supplied? Finding that very first job can be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they have some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Huntsville AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.

How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a couple of classes before choosing a college to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.

Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue working on a full time basis, it's important that the program you enroll in provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Huntsville AL, confirm that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will also have to schedule any internships or practical training that might 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 responsibilities.

Become a Certified Medical Assistant in Huntsville

Enroll in the Right Huntsville Medical Assistant Program

It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant school that will furnish the proper training. Regardless if you're goal is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the appropriate info on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering 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, make certain that the program you select is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Huntsville Alabama.




 

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