How to Select a Medical Assistant Program in Florida
Once you have made a decision to become a part of the gratifying profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant program in Florida, it’s time to choose a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Many future students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important factors as well. You may choose to take a look at a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that process, we have included a few questions that you should ask all of the schools on your “maybe” list. But prior to starting that review, let’s briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Duties of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Basically their role is ensure that the Florida clinics, hospitals and other medical care centers where they work run efficiently. Depending 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 tasked with providing direct support to the nurses, doctors and other health professionals but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing basic support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants can carry out almost any task they are qualified to under Florida law, some choose to specialize in a particular area and earn certification. Two of the options 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 Courses and Certification
Compared to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Florida employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we’ll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically 2 choices offered for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals 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 provided at junior and community colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more extensive in design than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They frequently have a practical element requiring an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are commonly 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 mandate, but is an excellent choice for individuals who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining employment after graduation, but it may also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Many potential Florida employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA exam, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered also, including the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are a good choice for students who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good option for students who continue working full-time while earning their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be reduced as well. But bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be carried out in local Florida healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your education may be the best option for you. With the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school alternatives, you must choose which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. After those selections have been made, you can start the procedure of researching colleges. As we covered at the opening of this article, some potential students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to home with the lowest tuitions. Although cost and location are significant qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you must explore when researching Florida programs. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are thinking about before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to ensure that the college you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 program is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Florida employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program’s Passing Rate? The majority of accredited Florida medical assistant colleges design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, 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 choose a program targeting that certification. Second, learn what the school’s passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the methods to help assess the quality of a school’s program. Of course programs with low rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can opt to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take about 2 years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you choose to enroll in, make sure that the Florida colleges you are reviewing provide the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? A large number of Florida medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with regional medical providers. They are an excellent means to receive hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students develop relationships within the medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Service Supplied? Finding that first job may be a daunting undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a large network of employers in Florida to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size might be an indication of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish greater access to teachers and face to face interaction. If practical, try to attend a couple of classes before choosing a college in Florida to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it’s imperative that the program you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends in Florida, verify that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online college, but you will also need to schedule all internships or practical training that might be required. Additionally, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Select the Ideal Medical Assistant College in Florida
It’s important to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you’re planning 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 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 selection based on your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make sure that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective 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 supplied in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can subsequently start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Florida.