How to Pick a Medical Assistant Training in Arizona
Now that you have decided to join the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant course in Arizona, it’s time to choose a school that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately pick the ideal one? Most future 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 extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important factors as well. You might want to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all relevant aspects of the schools you are evaluating. And to assist you with that task, we have included a few 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 type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Primarily their duty is to make sure that the Arizona hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities where they work operate efficiently. Based on the size or type of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for giving direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the potential duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
While medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are authorized to under Arizona law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and obtain certification. Two of the choices offered 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
Unlike many other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, many Arizona employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we’ll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about 1 year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs offered at junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a clinical component involving an internship with a local healthcare facility. 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.
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for those who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a position after graduation, but it might also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Arizona employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and perhaps 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 examination, a candidate must have graduated or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online too. They are a good option for those who might not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good choice for students who continue to work full time while attaining their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be lessened also. But bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be carried out in local Arizona healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this method of getting your education may be the ideal choice for you. Between the online lessons and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must determine which kind of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online from home. After those selections have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, some prospective students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to home with the lowest tuitions. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you need to explore when researching Arizona schools. To help you with that process, 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 Course Accredited? There are many good reasons to verify that the program you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to complete 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 school is not accredited by one of these organizations, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, many prospective Arizona employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program’s Passage Rate? The majority of accredited Arizona medical assistant schools develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must learn which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Second, learn what the school’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 schools with low rates are ones that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Provided? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths 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 one year. Or you can elect to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require approximately two years to complete in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, verify that the Arizona colleges you are reviewing provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Sponsored? A large number of Arizona medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with area health care providers. They are a great means to receive hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also assist students build relationships within the health care community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Supplied? Getting that very first job can be a challenging undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they have some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are researching offer job placement assistance and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a large network of employers in Arizona to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? Class size might be an indicator of how much individual attention 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 instructors and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to attend a couple of classes before enrolling in a college in Arizona to observe what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it’s essential that the college you enroll in offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends in Arizona, verify that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will still have to schedule any clinical training or internships that might 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.
Choose the Ideal Medical Assistant College in Arizona
It’s imperative to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant college that will provide the right training. Whether you’re goal is to begin a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to obtain the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many schools offering 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, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you intend on 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 on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Arizona.