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How to Pick the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Selma Alabama

Selma Alabama medical assistant carrying patient filesNow that you have decided to join the gratifying field of healthcare 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 approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately pick the best one? Most prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors as well. You might decide to research several online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you must finish your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are examining. And to assist you with that process, we have included several questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are offered.

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The Duties of Medical Assistants

Selma Alabama CMA greeting man on crutches

The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their duty is to make sure that the Selma AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities where they work operate efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health practitioners but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many responsibilities 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 tissue and fluid samples
  • Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
  • Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures

Although medical assistants may carry out almost any activity they are authorized to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and earn certification. Two of the options offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) made available by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

Medical Assistant Training Programs

Selma Alabama CMA working with senior man in nursing homeUnlike most other medical professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Selma AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally two choices provided for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about one year to finish, some as little as 6 to 9 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 two year programs provided at community and junior colleges as well as 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 clinical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare 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 similar field.

Certification Programs for Medical Assistants

As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for individuals who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting employment after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many potential Selma AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and perhaps 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 have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.

Online Medical Assistant Courses

Selma Alabama young woman attending online medical assistant trainingThere are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online also. They are an excellent option for students who may not have time to go to 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 earning their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be reduced also. Just bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be carried out in Selma AL area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your education may be the right choice for you. With the online lessons and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.

What to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges

Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school options, you have to determine which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. After those choices have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of prospective students restrict their searches to the colleges that are closest to Selma AL with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you should look at when assessing programs. To help you with that task, below are some questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your final choice.

Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are several great reasons to verify that the program you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 program is not accredited by one 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 assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many potential Selma 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 design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must find out which of the certifications the schools you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to choose a program targeting that certification. Next, find out what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the means to help assess the quality of a school's program. Obviously programs with lower rates are those that you will want to eliminate.

Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require approximately 2 years to accomplish in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to enroll in, make certain that the schools you are considering offer the kind of program you have an interest in.

Are Internships Available? Many medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Selma AL area medical care providers. They are a great method to receive hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also assist students build relationships within the Selma health care community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Service Provided? Getting that first job may be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing 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 students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care 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 can be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to attend a couple of classes before selecting a school to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students receive.

Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full time, it's essential that the college you select offers classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends near Selma 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 also have to schedule all clinical training or internships that may be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

How to Be a Certified Medical Assistant in Selma

Enroll in the Right Selma Medical Assistant College

It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will furnish the right training. Whether you're objective is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to acquire the appropriate information on available programs before making your decision. There are so many colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, confirm that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Selma Alabama.




 

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