How to Pick a Medical Assistant Program in New Jersey
Once you have decided to enter the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant course in New Jersey, it’s time to choose a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you undertake evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently pick the ideal one? A number of future students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest 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 issues also. You may want to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an option as well (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 aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that process, we have included several questions that you should ask each of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let’s talk a little bit about the role of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
The Function of a Medical Assistant
The function of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their duty is ensure that the New Jersey hospitals, clinics and other healthcare centers where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with providing direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the possible duties 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 specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Supplying general support during examinations and procedures
Although medical assistants may carry out almost any duty they are qualified to under New Jersey law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options offered 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 many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, many New Jersey employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically two options available for a formal education. The first and shortest route to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about one year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to earn an Associate Degree, which are usually 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 courses. They often have a practical component involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good choice for individuals who want to boost their careers. Not only will it help in attaining employment after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Some possible New Jersey employers just will not hire 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) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered as well, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are an excellent choice for those who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good solution for students who continue working full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, some online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be lessened also. But keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be carried out in regional New Jersey medical facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of receiving your training might be the ideal option for you. With the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to examining your medical assistant school options, you need to decide which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online from home. Once those decisions have been made, you can start the process of comparing schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, some students confine their searches to the colleges that are nearest to home with the lowest tuitions. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you must examine when evaluating New Jersey schools. To help you with that task, following are some questions that you need to ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to make certain that the program you enroll in is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted 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 one of these organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of potential New Jersey employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School’s Passage Percentage? The majority of accredited New Jersey medical assistant colleges create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you need to learn which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will need to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Next, ask what the program’s passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is one of the means to help assess the quality of a college’s program. Of course programs with low rates are those that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest 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 get a more comprehensive education that will require approximately two years to accomplish in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, verify that the New Jersey colleges you are reviewing provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? A large number of New Jersey medical assistant schools offer internship programs with regional healthcare providers. They are an excellent means to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students build relationships within the healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Assistance Supplied? Finding that first job may 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 interviewing provide job placement assistance and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also suggests that it has a wide network of contacts in New Jersey to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish increased access to teachers and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a few classes before selecting a school in New Jersey to experience what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work on a full time basis, it’s imperative that the program you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends in New Jersey, confirm that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will also have to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.
Pick the Ideal Medical Assistant Training in New Jersey
It’s important to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will furnish the appropriate training. Whether you’re goal is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must acquire the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of schools offering training nowadays 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, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in New Jersey.