How to Select a Medical Assistant Classes in Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to join the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant program in Alabama, it’s time to choose a college that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately pick the right one? Most potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors as well. You may decide to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about 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 reviewing. And to assist you with that task, we have provided several questions that you should ask all of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let’s talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the kind of credentials and training that are available.
The Role of a Medical Assistant
The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Primarily their role is to make sure that the Alabama hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work run efficiently. 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 responsible for giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the possible duties of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing general support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants may carry out almost any task they are qualified to under Alabama law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the choices available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Programs and Certification
Unlike most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, many Alabama employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at community and junior colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more extensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a clinical component involving an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
As stated previously, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good option for graduates who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in obtaining employment after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Some potential Alabama employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. 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 apply for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are an excellent choice for individuals who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good choice for students who continue working full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be lessened as well. Just bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be carried out in area Alabama healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your training may be the right choice for you. With the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant program options, you have to choose which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing colleges. As we covered at the opening of this article, many prospective students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to home with the most affordable tuitions. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional factors that you must examine when researching Alabama programs. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are many good reasons to make certain that the college you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both extensive 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 either of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Also, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Alabama employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program’s Passage Percentage? Most of the accredited Alabama medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must determine which of the certifications the colleges you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to choose a program focused on that certification. Second, find out what the program’s passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a college’s program. Of course programs with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can opt to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take approximately two years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, make sure that the Alabama schools you are considering provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous Alabama medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with regional healthcare providers. They are a great means to receive hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the health care community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Landing that initial job may be a difficult task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are evaluating offer job placement assistance and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of employers in Alabama to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to sit in on a couple of classes before choosing a college in Alabama 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 working full-time, it’s essential that the program you enroll in provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends in Alabama, make sure that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will also need to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Medical Assistant Program in Alabama
It’s imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will provide the right training. Regardless if you’re goal is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to acquire the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training these days that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make certain that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the kind 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 supplied 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 Alabama.