How to Enroll In the Best Medical Assistant Course Near Muscle Shoals Alabama
Once you have decided to enter the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Muscle Shoals AL, it's time to select a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? Most future students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences 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 as well. You might decide to research some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The main point is that before you select a college you must finish your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are reviewing. And to help you with that process, we have furnished a few questions that you should ask each of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
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The Job of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their duty is to make sure that the Muscle Shoals AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work run successfully. Based on the type or size of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving general support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any task they are authorized to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and earn certification. Two of the choices offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Courses
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Muscle Shoals AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally two options available for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about a year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs offered at community and junior colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They often have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good option for those who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in getting employment after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Some possible Muscle Shoals AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and perhaps the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available also, 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 accessible online too. They are a good choice for individuals who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good option for students who continue working full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be reduced also. Just remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be carried out in Muscle Shoals AL area health care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your education may be the ideal choice for you. Between the online lessons and the clinical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school options, you need to decide which type 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 begin the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, many potential students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to Muscle Shoals AL with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you must explore when researching programs. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to ensure that the school you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you must complete 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 school is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of potential Muscle Shoals AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passage Percentage? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you must learn which of the certifications the colleges you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Second, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the methods to help assess the quality of a college's program. Naturally schools with low rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to getting 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, although the average is about one year. Or you can decide to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, make sure that the schools you are looking at offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with Muscle Shoals AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also assist students build relationships within the Muscle Shoals health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Offered? Finding that initial job may be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Muscle Shoals 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 an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If practical, try to attend a couple of classes before selecting a college 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 program while you continue to work full time, it's imperative that the program you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Muscle Shoals AL, make certain that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, 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 issues.
Enroll in the Right Muscle Shoals Medical Assistant School
It's essential to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant college that will furnish the proper training. Whether 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 must acquire the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools offering training these days that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the best program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Muscle Shoals Alabama.