How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant School Near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to join the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Tuscaloosa AL, it's time to select a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the best one? Many prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean 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 decide to take a look at a few online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a program you must complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the colleges you are examining. And to assist you with that task, we have furnished some questions that you should ask each of the schools on your short 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 Function of Medical Assistants
So what do medical assistants do? These professionals typically work in Tuscaloosa AL physicians’ offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers. They’re responsible for both clinical and administrative tasks, taking on varied responsibilities such as answering phones; managing appointment schedules; maintaining patient records; greeting patients; coding medical information; processing billing and bookkeeping; coordinating services with other healthcare providers; recording medical histories; collecting lab samples; cleaning examination rooms; and doing basic lab tests. Some of these healthcare professionals may even draw blood, administer medication, perform electrocardiograms, remove stitches, discard biohazardous waste, and change wound dressings. These duties vary based on experience, specialized training, certification, and even state of practice.
Medical Assistant Training Programs
In contrast to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, many Tuscaloosa AL health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically 2 choices provided for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about 1 year to complete, some 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 attain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs offered at community and junior colleges together with technical 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 usually have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good choice for those who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it might also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Tuscaloosa 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). To qualify to apply for the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are an excellent choice for those who might not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good option for students who continue to work full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, many online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened also. Just remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be carried out in Tuscaloosa AL area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your education might be the best choice for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must determine which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at 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 restrict their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Tuscaloosa AL with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you need to examine when researching schools. To assist you with that task, following are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are several good reasons to ensure that the school you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in 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 school is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Tuscaloosa AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Rate? The majority of accredited medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you need to find out which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to choose a program focused on that certification. Next, find out what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with low rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can decide to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take approximately 2 years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, verify that the schools you are looking at provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with Tuscaloosa AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent method to get hands-on practical experience and training. They may also assist students develop relationships within the Tuscaloosa healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Offered? Landing that very first job may be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Tuscaloosa AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal attention you will receive during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a few classes before enrolling in a college to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's important that the program you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, make certain that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will also need to schedule any internships or practical training that may be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Tuscaloosa Medical Assistant Course
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will provide the right training. Whether you're objective is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to obtain the right information on available programs before making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges offering training these days that you can make a selection based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Tuscaloosa Alabama.