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How to Choose the Right Medical Assistant School Near Montgomery Alabama

Montgomery Alabama medical assistant carrying patient chartOnce you have made a decision to join the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Montgomery AL, it's time to choose a school that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately pick the right one? Most potential 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 extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors also. You might decide to look into some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The main point is that before you select a college you must finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have included a few questions that you should ask each 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 training and credentials that are offered.

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The Function of a Medical Assistant

Montgomery Alabama medical assistant greeting patient on crutches

The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Primarily their role is ensure that the Montgomery AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions where they work operate efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:

  • Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
  • Scheduling and confirming appointments
  • Weighing and taking patients vital signs
  • Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
  • Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
  • Providing general support during exams and procedures

Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some prefer to specialize in a specific area and earn 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 Training Courses

Montgomery Alabama CMA working with senior man in assisted living facilityIn contrast to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, many Montgomery AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically 2 options available for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs normally take about 1 year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at junior and community colleges together with vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive 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 requiring an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.

Certification Options for Medical Assistants

As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good option for individuals who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in securing employment after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Montgomery AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Programs

Montgomery Alabama young female taking online medical assistant trainingThere are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are an excellent choice for those who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good choice for students who continue working full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized as well. But remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be performed in Montgomery AL area medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your education might be the ideal option for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.

Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Schools

Prior to examining your medical assistant school options, you need to choose which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, some students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to Montgomery AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to explore when assessing schools. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final choice.

Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are many great reasons to verify that the college you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to 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 program is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Montgomery AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.

What is the School's Passing Percentage? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to find out which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to select a program targeting that certification. Second, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is one of the methods to help assess the quality of a college's program. Obviously schools with low rates are those that you will want to eliminate.

Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are basically two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can decide to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require about 2 years to accomplish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, make certain that the colleges you are looking at provide the type of program you have an interest in.

Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Montgomery AL area medical providers. They are an excellent method to receive hands-on practical experience and training. They may also help students establish relationships within the Montgomery health care community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Getting that initial job can be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are evaluating 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 a good reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a large network of employers to help place students in positions.

How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to attend a couple of classes before enrolling in a program to witness what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.

Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue working on a full time basis, it's imperative that the college you enroll in offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Montgomery AL, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online college, but you will still need to schedule any internships or clinical training that may be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family issues.

Become a Medical Assistant in Montgomery

Enroll in the Right Montgomery Medical Assistant Course

It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant program that will furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to get the appropriate info on available programs before making your decision. There are so many colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. 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 especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind 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 compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can subsequently start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Montgomery Alabama.




 

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