How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant Course Near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Now that you have decided to become a part of the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Tuscaloosa AL, it's time to choose a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the right one? A number of prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors also. You may want to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the colleges you are evaluating. And to assist you with that task, we have furnished several questions that you need to ask all of the colleges on your short list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
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The Role of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Primarily their function is to make sure that the Tuscaloosa AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare centers where they work run efficiently. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the possible functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants can perform almost any activity they are authorized to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and attain certification. Two of the choices available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Courses
Unlike many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Tuscaloosa AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically two choices available for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire 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 attain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs offered at junior and community colleges as well as 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 courses. They often have a practical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 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 an excellent choice for individuals who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in getting employment after graduation, but it may also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Tuscaloosa AL medical employers simply will not hire 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 take the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative 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 numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are an excellent choice for those who might not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good choice for students who continue working full time while earning their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, many online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Supplemental expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized as well. Just bear in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be completed in Tuscaloosa AL area healthcare 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 choice for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to decide which kind of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. As soon as those decisions have been made, you can start the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some potential students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Tuscaloosa AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you need to explore when researching schools. To help you with that task, following are some questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to make sure that the school you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 exam. Additionally, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Tuscaloosa AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School's Passing Rate? The majority of accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to learn which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to choose a program targeting that certification. Second, find out what the program'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 college's program. Obviously schools with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can choose to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, confirm that the schools you are looking at provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Tuscaloosa AL area medical providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students build relationships within the Tuscaloosa health care community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Offered? Finding that first job can be a challenging task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Tuscaloosa AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also suggests that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indicator of how much individual attention you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to instructors and face to face interaction. If practical, try to monitor a couple of classes before enrolling in a college to observe what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full-time, it's essential that the college you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends near Tuscaloosa AL, make certain that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will also need to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Tuscaloosa Medical Assistant School
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant school that will furnish the proper training. Regardless if you're goal is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the appropriate info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make sure that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied 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 Tuscaloosa Alabama.