How to Find the Right Medical Assistant Classes in Alaska
Once you have decided to become a part of the gratifying profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant course in Alaska, it’s time to select a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently pick the ideal one? A number of potential students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean 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 issues as well. You might want to research a few online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you need to finish your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are assessing. And to assist you with that task, we have included a few questions that you should ask each of the colleges 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 type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Responsibilities of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their function is to make sure that the Alaska clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work run efficiently. Depending on the type or size of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the potential functions 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 fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying general support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any task they are qualified to under Alaska law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and obtain certification. Two of the options 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 Training and Certification
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Alaska employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically two 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 1 year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to earn an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs offered at junior and community colleges as well as trade and vocational schools. They are more expansive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for graduates who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in attaining a job after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Many potential Alaska employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. 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 apply for the CMA exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are an excellent choice for students who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good alternative for students who continue working full time while earning their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Ancillary costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be minimized also. Just remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can typically be completed in local Alaska medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your training may be the ideal choice for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school options, you must determine which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of comparing colleges. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many potential students confine their searches to the schools that are nearest to home with the most affordable tuitions. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you need to look at when evaluating Alaska programs. To assist you with that task, following are some questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many great reasons to confirm that the program you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 either of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many potential Alaska employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School’s Passage Rate? The majority of accredited Alaska medical assistant schools develop their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you need to learn which of the certifications the schools you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, 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 compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a college’s program. Naturally schools with lower rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are basically two routes to acquiring 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 closer to 1 year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take approximately two years to finish in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, verify that the Alaska schools you are reviewing offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous Alaska medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with local health care providers. They are a great way to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also assist students establish relationships within the healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Supplied? Landing that very first job can be a challenging undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating offer job placement assistance and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also suggests that it has a wide network of employers in Alaska to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much individual instruction you will get throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to attend a couple of classes before enrolling in a school in Alaska to observe what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work on a full time basis, it’s imperative that the college you enroll in offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends in Alaska, make certain that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will still need 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 because of work, illness or family issues.
Choose the Right Medical Assistant Program in Alaska
It’s essential to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you’re objective is to launch 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 right info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of schools providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on 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 online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Alaska.