How to Pick the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Saraland Alabama
Once you have made a decision to enter the gratifying profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Saraland AL, it's time to select a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently pick the ideal one? Most potential students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors also. You may choose to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a program you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are assessing. And to assist you with that process, we have included a few questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting 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 Role of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their job is ensure that the Saraland 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 responsible for providing direct support to the nurses, doctors and other health practitioners but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the potential duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Supplying general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the options 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 Programs
In contrast to most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Saraland AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially 2 choices provided for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs provided at junior and community colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a practical component involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are commonly 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 Programs for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent option for individuals who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in attaining a position after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. Some possible Saraland AL medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. One of 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 exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 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 many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online also. They are a good choice for those who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good option for students who continue to work full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, a number of online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be lessened also. But keep in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be completed in Saraland AL area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of receiving your education might be the right option for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school options, you have to choose which kind 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 comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to Saraland 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 look at when researching schools. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to verify that the college you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both comprehensive 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 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 agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many potential Saraland AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School's Passing Percentage? The majority of accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to learn which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then of course you will want to enroll in 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 just one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can opt to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will take approximately 2 years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, confirm that the schools you are considering offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Saraland AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent way to receive hands-on practical training and experience. They can also assist students build relationships within the Saraland healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Getting that very first job can be a daunting task for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Saraland AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much personal instruction you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to monitor a couple of classes before selecting a college to experience what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue working on a full time basis, it's imperative that the school you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Saraland AL, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will still need to schedule all internships or clinical training 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 emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Saraland Medical Assistant Program
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will provide the right training. Regardless if you're objective is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must get the appropriate info on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering training these days that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can subsequently start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Saraland Alabama.