How to Enroll In the Best Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Now that you have decided to enter the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Vestavia Hills AL, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Most prospective students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors as well. You may decide to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the schools you are reviewing. And to help you with that process, we have included some questions that you need to ask all 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 type of training and credentials that are available.
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The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Primarily their job is to make sure that the Vestavia Hills AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work run efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Supplying general support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options available 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
Compared to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Vestavia Hills AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally two options available for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about one year to finish, a few 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 two year programs provided at junior and community colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a practical element involving an internship with a local medical practice. 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 similar field.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good option for individuals who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a job after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Vestavia Hills AL medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not received 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 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are an excellent option for students who may not have time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good option for students who continue working full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be lessened as well. But keep in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be completed in Vestavia Hills AL area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to getting your education may be the right option 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 Colleges
Prior to evaluating your medical assistant school options, you must determine which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. After those selections have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to Vestavia Hills AL with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you should examine when researching schools. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are several great reasons to verify that the program you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 either of these organizations, 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 available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many prospective Vestavia Hills AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passing Rate? Most of the accredited medical assistant colleges design 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 reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then of course you will want to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Second, learn what the school's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are generally two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can elect 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 colleges you are reviewing offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Many medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Vestavia Hills AL area healthcare providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on practical training and experience. They may also help students develop relationships within the Vestavia Hills healthcare community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Finding that initial job can be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Vestavia Hills AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to provide greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a few classes before choosing a program to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full time, it's imperative that the school you enroll in offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Vestavia Hills AL, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will still have to schedule any clinical training or internships that may be required. Additionally, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Right Vestavia Hills Medical Assistant Classes
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant school that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you're goal is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice 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 colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make certain that the program you select is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you anticipate 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 on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can subsequently begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Vestavia Hills Alabama.