How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant School Near Selma Alabama
Now that you have decided to enter the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Selma AL, it's time to select a college that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately pick the ideal one? Most future students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors as well. You might decide to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are evaluating. And to assist you with that task, we have provided some questions that you need to 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 training and credentials that are available.
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The Function of Medical Assistants
The duties of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Essentially their job is to make sure that the Selma AL hospitals, clinics and other medical care facilities where they work run successfully. Depending on the type or size of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the possible duties of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are qualified to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and attain certification. Two of the options available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Programs
In contrast to most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Selma AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and quickest way to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs generally take about one year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs available at community and junior colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a practical element involving an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent idea for those who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in securing a job after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Many potential Selma AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered also, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are a good choice for those who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good option for students who continue to work full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened as well. Just remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be completed in Selma AL area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your training may be the best option for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must determine which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. After those choices have been made, you can begin the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Selma AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should explore when evaluating schools. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to make sure that the program you select is accredited. First, 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 accepted 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 one of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, many prospective Selma AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you must find out which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will want to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Second, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the means to help assess the quality of a school's program. Of course programs with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can elect to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will take approximately two years to finish in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, make sure that the schools you are looking at provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Selma AL area health care providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students build relationships within the Selma healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Offered? Landing that very first job can be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Selma AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much individual attention you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to attend a couple of classes before choosing a program to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full-time, it's essential that the college you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Selma AL, confirm that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will also need to schedule any clinical training or internships that might be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Selma Medical Assistant Course
It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will furnish the proper training. Regardless if you're objective is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must get the appropriate information on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training these days that you can make a decision based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make certain that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless 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, make sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the ideal program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Selma Alabama.