How to Select the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Eagle River Alaska
Once you have made a decision to become a part of the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Eagle River AK, it's time to select a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the right one? Many prospective students start by researching 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 critical factors also. You may want to look into some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have furnished some questions that you should 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 offered.
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The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their role is to make sure that the Eagle River AK clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work operate successfully. Based on the type or size of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Giving basic support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants can perform almost any activity they are qualified to under Alaska law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the choices available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Courses
Compared to most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Eagle River AK health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially two options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about a year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs available at junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They frequently have a clinical element requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for graduates who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in securing a position after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Eagle River AK medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and arguably 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 exam, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are an excellent alternative for those who may not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good solution for students who continue to work full time while earning their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, a number of online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be reduced as well. Just remember that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be completed in Eagle River AK area medical care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your training might be the right choice for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school options, you need to choose which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can begin the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some prospective students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to Eagle River AK with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you should look at when researching programs. To help you with that task, following are some questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are several great reasons to confirm that the program you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 program is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of prospective Eagle River AK employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Rate? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must learn which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will need to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Second, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is one of the ways to help assess the quality of a college's program. Obviously schools with lower rates are ones that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are basically two routes to acquiring 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, although the average is about one year. Or you can elect to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about 2 years to finish in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, make sure that the schools you are considering offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? A large number of medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with Eagle River AK area health care providers. They are a great method to obtain hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the Eagle River health care community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Supplied? Landing that very first job can be a daunting undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Eagle River AK area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much personal instruction you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to attend a couple of classes before choosing a school to observe what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work full time, it's essential that the school you select provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Eagle River AK, confirm that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will still have to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Eagle River Medical Assistant Course
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant college that will furnish the right training. Regardless if 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 must obtain the appropriate info on available programs before making your selection. There are so many colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can 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 Eagle River Alaska.