How to Pick the Best Medical Assistant School Near Opelika Alabama
Once you have decided to enter the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Opelika AL, it's time to select a college that will provide the proper training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the best one? Many potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues as well. You may choose to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to finish your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the schools you are examining. And to assist you with that task, we have included a few questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
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The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
Medical assistants are specially-trained health care providers who work closely with patients, nurses, and doctors and perform a variety of clinical and administrative tasks associated with running a medical office. Clinical duties a medical assistant performs include taking and recording a patient’s vital signs, collecting a patient’s medical history, assisting physicians with patient exams, giving injections or medications as directed by a physician, sterilizing medical supplies and disposing of medical waste. In addition to clinical work, medical assistants perform many administrative tasks such as updating and maintaining patient charts, assisting with medical billing, managing medical records, filing insurance claims and scheduling patient appointments. With a range of duties, Opelika AL medical assistants have the opportunity to participate in many of the day-to-day operations of a medical office, hospital department or private practice.
Medical Assistant Training
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Opelika AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs offered at junior and community colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a practical component involving an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are commonly 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 requirement, but is a good choice for individuals who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in attaining a position after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many potential Opelika AL medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and possibly 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 examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available as well, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Classes
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are an excellent option for those who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good solution for students who continue to work full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be lessened also. But keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be performed in Opelika AL area healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your training may be the ideal choice for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to decide which type of credential you want to earn, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many potential students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to Opelika AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you should examine when researching programs. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several good reasons to confirm that the program you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved organizations 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 either of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Opelika 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 colleges create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you need to learn which of the certifications the colleges you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will want to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Second, learn 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 evaluate the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are basically 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, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take approximately two years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to enroll in, verify that the schools you are considering provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? A large number of medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Opelika AL area health care providers. They are an excellent method to receive hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students develop relationships within the Opelika healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Getting that very first job can be a challenging task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some help 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 program has a high 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 positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indicator 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 greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to attend a couple of classes before enrolling in a school to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work full time, it's important that the school you enroll in offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Opelika AL, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online college, but you will still have to schedule any internships or practical training that may be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Opelika Medical Assistant Training
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant program that will provide the proper training. Regardless if you're goal is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many schools offering training these days that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, confirm that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective 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, make sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Opelika Alabama.