How to Choose the Right Medical Assistant Training Program Near Jacksonville Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to enter the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Jacksonville AL, it's time to choose a college that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently enroll in the ideal one? Many prospective students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues as well. You may choose to look into some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The main point is that before you select a college you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are assessing. And to assist you with that task, we have included several questions that you should ask all of the colleges 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 kind of credentials and training that are offered.
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The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
So what do medical assistants do? These professionals typically work in Jacksonville 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 Education
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Jacksonville 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 basically 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about one year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs available at community and junior colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a practical component involving an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good idea for individuals who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining employment after graduation, but it may also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Jacksonville AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify 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, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are an excellent alternative for students 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 choice for students who continue to work full time while earning their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Supplemental costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be minimized as well. But remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be completed in Jacksonville AL area medical facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your education may be the best choice for you. With the online classes and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to examining your medical assistant school options, you have to decide which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. Once those choices have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, some students restrict their searches to the colleges that are closest to Jacksonville AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional factors that you must examine when researching schools. To help you with that process, below are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several good reasons to ensure that the college you enroll in is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged agencies 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 exam. Additionally, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many potential Jacksonville AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Percentage? Most of the accredited medical assistant colleges create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you need to learn which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will want to choose a program focused on that certification. Second, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can opt to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require about two years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, confirm that the schools you are looking at provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Jacksonville AL area medical providers. They are an excellent means to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They may also help students establish relationships within the Jacksonville healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Finding that first job can be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Jacksonville AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also suggests that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size can be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a program to witness what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working on a full time basis, it's essential that the school you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Jacksonville AL, make sure that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will still have to schedule any internships or clinical training that might be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Jacksonville Medical Assistant Training
It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will furnish the appropriate training. Whether you're objective is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must get the right information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many schools offering training these days that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, make certain that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Jacksonville Alabama.