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How to Find the Right Medical Assistant Degree Program Near Prescott Arizona

Prescott Arizona CMA holding patient filesNow that you have made a decision to join the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Prescott AZ, it's time to select a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately pick the ideal one? Many prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the lowest 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 look into a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to assist you with that process, we have provided several questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are available.

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The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants

Prescott Arizona CMA holding door for patient using crutches

So what do medical assistants do? These professionals typically work in Prescott AZ physicians’ offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers. They’re responsible for both clinical and administrative tasks, taking on varied responsibilities such as answering phones; managing appointment schedules; maintaining patient records; greeting patients; coding medical information; processing billing and bookkeeping; coordinating services with other healthcare providers; recording medical histories; collecting lab samples; cleaning examination rooms; and doing basic lab tests. Some of these healthcare professionals may even draw blood, administer medication, perform electrocardiograms, remove stitches, discard biohazardous waste, and change wound dressings. These duties vary based on experience, specialized training, certification, and even state of practice.

Medical Assistant Education

Prescott Arizona medical assistant reading to senior man in assisted living facilityIn contrast to most other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of Prescott AZ health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally 2 options available for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about a 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 alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs offered at junior and community colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They frequently have a clinical element 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 Options for Medical Assistants

As stated previously, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good option for those who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in getting employment after graduation, but it can also help with initial salary negotiations. Some possible Prescott AZ medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained 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 take the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Colleges

Prescott Arizona young woman attending online medical assistant classesThere are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are an excellent option for those who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good alternative for students who continue working full-time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be minimized also. But keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be carried out in Prescott AZ area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your training may be the best choice for you. Between the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.

Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges

Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to 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 decisions have been made, you can start the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we covered at the opening of this article, some students confine their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Prescott AZ with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional issues that you must explore when evaluating programs. To help you with that task, below are some questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your final choice.

Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are several good reasons to ensure that the program 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 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 school is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many prospective Prescott 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 colleges create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to learn which of the certifications the programs you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then of course you will need to select a program focused on that certification. Next, learn 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. Obviously programs with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.

Which Credentials are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are essentially 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, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require about 2 years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you choose to enroll in, make certain that the schools you are looking at offer the type of program you are interested in.

Are Internships Offered? Numerous medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Prescott AZ area health care providers. They are a great way to receive hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also help students build relationships within the Prescott medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.

Is Job Placement Help Supplied? Getting that initial job may be a daunting task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are researching provide job placement assistance in the Prescott AZ area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also suggests that it has a wide network of contacts to help place students in positions.

How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indication of how much individual instruction you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before selecting a school to witness what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.

Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working full-time, it's imperative that the school you enroll in provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Prescott AZ, make sure that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online college, but you will also have to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.

How to Become a Medical Assistant in Prescott

Enroll in the Right Prescott Medical Assistant Classes

It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant program that will furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you're goal is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to get the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges providing training these days that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Prescott Arizona.




 

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