How to Pick a Medical Assistant Program in Columbus Pennsylvania
Now that you have decided to become a part of the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant course in Columbus PA, it’s time to select a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately enroll in the ideal one? Many potential students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical factors also. You might choose to research several online medical assistant programs as an option also (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are assessing. And to help you with that task, we have included some 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 function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Duties of Medical Assistants
The job of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their role is ensure that the Columbus PA clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work operate efficiently. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Although Columbus PA medical assistants may perform almost any activity they are authorized to under Pennsylvania law, some elect to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options 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 Programs and Certification
Compared to many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, many Columbus PA employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we’ll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially two choices available for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about one year to finish, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are created to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at junior and community colleges together with technical 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 training. They usually have a practical component involving an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for those who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining a job after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. A number of possible Columbus PA employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are offered as well, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs accessible online also. They are a good alternative for individuals who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good solution 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. Ancillary costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be minimized as well. Just remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can usually be carried out in regional Pennsylvania health care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your education may be the best option for you. Between the online classes and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant in Columbus PA is provided.
Topics to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant program alternatives, you have to determine which type of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus near Columbus PA or online at home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can begin the process of researching programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of potential students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to home with the lowest tuitions. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you need to explore when evaluating Pennsylvania programs. To help you with that process, following are a few questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are many great reasons to verify that the school 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 intend to become certified, you need to enroll in 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 program is not accredited by one 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 normally not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many prospective Columbus PA employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program’s Passage Rate? Most of the accredited Columbus PA area medical assistant schools design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must determine which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to enroll in a program targeting 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 ways to help assess the quality of a school’s program. Of course programs with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Provided? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is closer to one year. Or you can elect to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about 2 years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, confirm that the Columbus PA area colleges you are looking at offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? Numerous Pennsylvania medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with regional health care providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students develop relationships within the Columbus PA health care community. And as an added perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Supplied? Landing that initial job can be a challenging undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing provide job placement assistance and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a large network of contacts in the Columbus PA area to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish increased access to instructors and face to face interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before enrolling in a college in the Columbus PA area to witness what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work on a full time basis, it’s essential that the college you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends in Columbus PA, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online college, but you will also have to schedule any internships or practical training that will be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Best Medical Assistant Training Program in Columbus PA
It’s essential to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant college that will provide the right training. Whether you’re objective is to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must get the appropriate info on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many schools providing training these days that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, make certain that the program you select is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. 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, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can subsequently begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Columbus PA.
Why Did You Choose to Become a Certified Medical Assistant?When preparing to interview for a medical assistant position, it's helpful to consider questions you might be asked. Among the things that hiring managers often ask prospects is "What compelled you to pick medical assistance as a career?". What the interviewer is attempting to uncover is not merely the private reasons you might have for becoming a Medical Assistant, but also what qualities and skills you have that make you good at your profession. You will probably be asked questions relating specifically to medical assisting, in addition to a significant number of routine interview questions, so you must organize several strategies about how you would like to address them. Given that there are numerous factors that go into selecting a career, you can answer this fundamental question in a variety of ways. When formulating an answer, attempt to include the reasons the profession appeals to you along with the talents you have that make you an excellent medical assistant and the leading candidate for the position. Don't attempt to memorize an answer, but jot down a few concepts and anecdotes that relate to your personal strengths and experiences. Going over sample responses can assist you to formulate your own thoughts, and give you ideas of what to discuss to enthuse the recruiter.
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