How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant School Program Near Muscle Shoals Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the gratifying profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Muscle Shoals AL, it's time to choose a college that will provide the proper training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the best one? Most prospective students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors as well. You might want to look into several online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are evaluating. And to assist you with that task, we have included some questions that you should ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
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The Function of a Medical Assistant
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 Muscle Shoals 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 Training
Unlike many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Muscle Shoals AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about one year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created 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 usually 2 year programs available at junior and community colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a practical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are often 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 Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good choice for those who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in getting employment after graduation, but it may also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Muscle Shoals AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and arguably the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered 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 available as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are a good alternative for students who may not have time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good solution for students who continue working full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be lessened also. But keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be completed in Muscle Shoals AL area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your education might be the ideal choice for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must decide which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many prospective students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to Muscle Shoals AL with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you should look at when assessing programs. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to verify that the college you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted agencies 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 either of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Muscle Shoals AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Percentage? The majority of accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you must find out which of the certifications the schools you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to select a program focused on that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can opt to obtain an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will take about two years to accomplish in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, verify that the colleges you are reviewing offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Muscle Shoals AL area medical providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on practical experience and training. They may also help students establish relationships within the Muscle Shoals medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Supplied? Getting that initial job can be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Muscle Shoals AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indication of how much personal attention you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If possible, try to monitor a couple of classes before choosing a college to observe what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue working full time, it's important that the college you enroll in offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Muscle Shoals AL, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online college, but you will also need to schedule any internships or clinical training that will be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Muscle Shoals Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant school that will provide the right training. Whether you're objective is to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the right info on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many schools offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make certain that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can subsequently start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Muscle Shoals Alabama.