How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Opelika Alabama
Once you have made a decision to become a part of the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Opelika AL, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately pick the best one? Many potential students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues as well. You may decide to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an option 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 relevant qualifications of the schools you are reviewing. And to assist you with that task, we have furnished several questions that you should ask all of the colleges 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 kind of training and credentials that are offered.
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The Role of a Medical Assistant
The job of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Primarily their job is ensure that the Opelika AL clinics, hospitals and other medical care institutions where they work run efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue 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 prefer to specialize in a particular area and attain 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 Training Courses
Unlike many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Opelika AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally 2 options available for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about 1 year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs offered at community and junior colleges in addition to technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a clinical element involving an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred 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 requirement, but is an excellent idea for individuals who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in getting a job after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. Some possible Opelika AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. 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 sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available as well, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are an excellent option for students 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 choice for students who continue to work full time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Supplemental costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized also. Just remember that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Opelika AL area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your education may be the best option for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to choose which type of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. As soon as those decisions have been made, you can begin the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students restrict their searches to the colleges that are closest to Opelika AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to examine when assessing schools. To help you with that task, below are a few questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several good reasons to make certain that the program you select is accredited. To start with, 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 agencies 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 either of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Opelika AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
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 exams. First, you need to find out which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will need to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Second, ask what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with lower rates are ones that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about 1 year. Or you can elect to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take approximately two years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, verify that the colleges you are looking at offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Opelika AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent method to obtain hands-on practical training and experience. They may also assist students build relationships within the Opelika healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Getting that first job can be a difficult undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Opelika AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much individual instruction you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a few classes before choosing a college to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full-time, it's essential that the college you select provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Opelika AL, make certain that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will also have to schedule any clinical training or internships that may be required. Also, find out 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 Opelika Medical Assistant Classes
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant school that will furnish the appropriate training. Whether you're goal is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must acquire the right info on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many schools providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make sure that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the best program you can subsequently start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Opelika Alabama.