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How to Select the Right Medical Assistant School Near Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska medical assistant carrying patient filesOnce you have decided to become a part of the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Anchorage AK, it's time to choose a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? Many prospective students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues as well. You might want to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you must finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are examining. And to help you with that task, we have included a few questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.

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The Job of a Medical Assistant

Anchorage Alaska medical assistant holding door for man on crutches

Medical assistants play an important role in the modern healthcare industry, providing assistance to other professionals and helping attend to patients. A medical assistant’s typical job responsibilities include preparing patients for examinations; taking medical histories; administering medication as requested by the attending physician; performing electrocardiograms; changing wound dressings or removing stitches; collecting samples for lab testing; serving as liaisons between doctors and patients; and fulfilling various administrative functions. These cross-disciplinary medical professionals work across various Alaska healthcare settings, concentrated in Anchorage outpatient clinics, medical offices, and other ambulatory care facilities. In some cases, CMAs (Certified Medical Assistants) have additional specialized certifications allowing them to fulfill other clinical responsibilities. For example, a CMA with a specialization in chiropractic care may assist a chiropractor during an adjustment, whereas a medical assistant who works in the office of an optometrist or ophthalmologist may help with an eye examination.

Medical Assistant Programs

Anchorage Alaska medical assistant working with senior man in nursing homeCompared to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Anchorage AK health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically 2 options available for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about one year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs offered at community and junior colleges together with vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. 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 Options for Medical Assistants

As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent idea for graduates who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining employment after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible Anchorage AK medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and possibly 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, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Courses

Anchorage Alaska young female taking online medical assistant classesThere are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are an excellent option for students who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good choice for students who continue to work full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Supplemental costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be reduced as well. Just keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be completed in Anchorage AK area healthcare 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 right option for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.

Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges

Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school options, you must choose which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. Once those choices have been made, you can begin the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some potential students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to Anchorage AK with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional factors that you must look at when researching schools. To help you with that process, below are a few questions that you need to ask about each of the schools you are considering before making your final selection.

Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several good reasons to make sure that the school you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you must 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 eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Anchorage AK employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.

What is the School's Passing Percentage? The majority of accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you must find out which of the certifications the colleges you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will need to select a program focused on that certification. Second, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally schools with low rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.

Which Credentials are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are generally two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is about 1 year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require approximately 2 years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, verify that the colleges you are considering offer the kind of program you have an interest in.

Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Anchorage AK area medical care providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on practical experience and training. They may also help students establish relationships within the Anchorage health care community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Service Offered? Finding that first job may be a daunting task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are evaluating provide job placement assistance in the Anchorage AK area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in positions.

How Big are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indication of how much personal attention you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a couple of classes before selecting a program to experience what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.

Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full-time, it's imperative that the program you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends near Anchorage AK, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will still need to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

How to Become a CMA in Anchorage

Enroll in the Right Anchorage Medical Assistant Training

It's important to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will provide the proper training. Regardless if you're objective is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged agency, 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, make sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the best program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Anchorage Alaska.




 

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