How to Select the Right Medical Assistant School Program Near Montgomery Alabama
Now that you have decided to join the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Montgomery AL, it's time to select a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? Many potential students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors also. You might want to research some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are evaluating. And to assist you with that process, we have provided several questions that you should ask all of the colleges on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
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The Function of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Primarily their job is to make sure that the Montgomery AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers where they work run efficiently. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the many responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Supplying general support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may carry out almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and obtain certification. Two of the choices available 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 Education
Unlike most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Montgomery AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially two options available for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about a 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 option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs provided at community and junior colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a clinical component involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are routinely 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 Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for individuals who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in securing a job after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Some potential Montgomery AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are a good alternative for individuals who might not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good alternative for students who continue working full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be minimized as well. But bear in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be completed in Montgomery AL area health care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your training may be the best option for you. With the online classes and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you must determine which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. After those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of students confine their searches to the schools that are nearest to Montgomery AL with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you must examine when assessing programs. To assist you with that process, following are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to confirm that the school you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the training 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 acknowledged organizations for accreditation are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If your program is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Montgomery AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Rate? Most of the accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you must determine which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to select a program concentrating on that certification. Next, learn 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 school's program. Of course programs with low rates are ones that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are basically two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to one year. Or you can opt to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take about 2 years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, verify that the schools you are reviewing provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? A large number of medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Montgomery AL area healthcare providers. They are a great means to receive hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students build relationships within the Montgomery healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Finding that very first job may be a daunting undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Montgomery AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size might be an indicator of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If practical, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a program to see what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full time, it's essential that the college you enroll in offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Montgomery AL, make certain that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will still have to schedule any clinical training or internships that will be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Montgomery Medical Assistant College
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant program that will furnish the proper training. Whether you're goal is to launch a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to get the appropriate information on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of schools providing training these days that you can make a selection based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan 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, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can subsequently begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Montgomery Alabama.