How to Choose a Medical Assistant Training in California
Now that you have decided to join the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant program in California, it’s time to choose a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? A number of prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues also. You may decide to research some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are examining. And to help you with that task, we have furnished a few questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let’s talk a little bit about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Basically their function is to make sure that the California clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work run successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the possible functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants may carry out almost any duty they are authorized to under California law, some choose 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) made available by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training and Certification
Compared to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, a number of California employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we’ll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically 2 choices provided for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally 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 alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs provided at junior and community colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a practical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare practice. 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 similar field.
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for those who want to boost their careers. It will not only help in securing a job after graduation, but it may also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of possible California employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. Among 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). In order to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Colleges
There are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good solution for students who continue working full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be minimized as well. Just bear in mind that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be performed in regional California medical facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on campus, then this method of receiving your education may be the ideal option for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant program alternatives, you must decide which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. Once those selections have been made, you can begin the procedure of comparing colleges. As we covered at the opening of this article, many potential students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to home with the cheapest tuitions. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to examine when assessing California schools. To help you with that process, following are some questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to confirm that the college you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the accepted organizations for accreditation are the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). If your school is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA examination. Additionally, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many potential California employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program’s Passing Percentage? The majority of accredited California medical assistant schools develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you must determine which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will need to enroll in a program concentrating on that certification. Next, find out what the school’s passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a school’s program. Of course programs with lower rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take approximately 2 years to complete in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, make sure that the California colleges you are considering provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? Many California medical assistant schools offer internship programs with area medical providers. They are a great method to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also assist students establish relationships within the healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Furnished? Getting that very first job may be a daunting undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are researching offer job placement assistance and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also signifies that it has a large network of employers in California to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much personal instruction you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a couple of classes before selecting a school in California to observe what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work on a full time basis, it’s essential that the school you choose offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to go to classes at night or on weekends in California, make certain that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online school, but you will still need to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family issues.
Select the Ideal Medical Assistant College in California
It’s essential to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant school that will furnish the proper training. Whether you’re objective is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the appropriate information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools offering training these days that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, don’t forget to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can subsequently start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in California.