How to Pick the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Phoenix Arizona
Now that you have made a decision to become a part of the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Phoenix AZ, it's time to choose a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the ideal one? Most future 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 very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors also. You may want to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a college you must finish your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the colleges you are evaluating. And to help you with that process, we have provided several 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 function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.
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The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Primarily their role is to make sure that the Phoenix AZ hospitals, clinics and other medical care centers where they work operate successfully. Based on the size or type of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Providing basic support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are authorized to under Arizona law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and obtain certification. Two of the options offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Programs
Compared to most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Phoenix AZ health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally 2 options available for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about 1 year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at junior and community colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a clinical element involving an internship with a local healthcare 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 Programs for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for graduates who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. Some possible Phoenix AZ medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. 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). To qualify to sit for the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online also. They are a good choice for those who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good solution for students who continue working full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, a number of online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be minimized as well. But remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can often be completed in Phoenix AZ area medical facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your training may be the ideal option for you. With the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to determine which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online at home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many prospective students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to Phoenix AZ with the cheapest tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you should look at when researching schools. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are several good reasons to confirm that the college you enroll in is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in 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 program is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, many potential Phoenix AZ employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the Program's Passage Percentage? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must determine which of the certifications the programs you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will want 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. This is just one of the means to help assess the quality of a college's program. Of course programs with lower rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Available? As we covered earlier, there are basically two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and get 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 take approximately two years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, confirm that the colleges you are looking at provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Phoenix AZ area healthcare providers. They are a great method to receive hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Phoenix healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Landing that first job can be a difficult task for graduating medical assistant students unless they have some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Phoenix AZ area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size can be an indicator 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 offer increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a few classes before choosing a program to observe what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full-time, it's important that the school you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends near Phoenix AZ, make certain that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will also have to schedule all internships or clinical training that might be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family issues.
Enroll in the Right Phoenix Medical Assistant College
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant program that will provide the proper training. Whether you're planning to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of schools offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you choose is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you intend 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 supplied so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the best program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Phoenix Arizona.