How to Choose the Right Medical Assistant Course Near Northport Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the gratifying profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Northport AL, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently pick the right 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 location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues as well. You may decide to take a look at a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you must complete your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are assessing. And to help you with that process, we have provided some questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
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The Role of a Medical Assistant
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their role is to make sure that the Northport AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions where they work run efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for giving direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Giving general support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants may carry out almost any duty they are authorized to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and obtain certification. Two of the options available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Education
Compared to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, many Northport 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 essentially two options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about one year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at junior and community colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a practical element requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are often 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 stated previously, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good option for those who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining employment after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Northport AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and perhaps the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are a good alternative for those who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good alternative for students who continue working full-time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, a number of online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Supplemental costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be reduced as well. But bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Northport AL area health care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of receiving your training might be the best option for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school options, you have to determine which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. After those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, some prospective students limit their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Northport AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should examine when researching programs. To help you with that task, following are some questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to make certain that the program you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must 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 school is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Northport AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passage Percentage? The majority of accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to determine which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then of course you will want to choose a program focused on that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the means to help assess the quality of a college's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is about 1 year. Or you can choose to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, verify that the schools you are looking at offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Northport AL area health care providers. They are a great method to receive hands-on practical training and experience. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Northport health care community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Provided? Landing that initial job can be a difficult undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Northport AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates 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 personal attention you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If possible, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a program to witness what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the college you select offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Northport AL, make sure that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online college, but you will still have to schedule any internships or clinical training that will be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Northport Medical Assistant Training
It's important to start 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 medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must obtain the right information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, confirm that the program you select is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind 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 supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can subsequently begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Northport Alabama.