How to Find the Right Medical Assistant School in Birmingham Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to join the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant course in Birmingham AL, it’s time to choose a college that will furnish the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently pick the right one? A number of future students begin by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues also. You may want to research some 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 finish your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that process, we have included several questions that you need to ask all of the colleges 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 a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Basically their duty is to make sure that the Birmingham AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work run efficiently. 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 responsible for giving direct assistance to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for doctors
- Providing general support during exams and procedures
While Birmingham AL medical assistants can perform almost any task they are authorized to under Alabama law, some opt 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 Training and Certification
Compared to most other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Birmingham AL employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we’ll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about a year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs provided at community and junior colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a practical element requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are commonly a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent option for individuals who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in securing employment after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many potential Birmingham AL employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply 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 previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are an excellent option for individuals who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good alternative for students who continue to work full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be reduced as well. But keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be fulfilled, but they can typically be carried out in area Alabama health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this mode of getting your education may be the right choice for you. Between the online lessons and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant in Birmingham AL is provided.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant program options, you must determine which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus near Birmingham AL or online at home. After those decisions have been made, you can start the procedure of researching schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some prospective students confine their searches to the schools that are closest to home with the lowest tuitions. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you must explore when researching Alabama schools. To assist you with that process, following are a few questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to ensure that the school you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the training 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 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. Also, if you anticipate obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Birmingham AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School’s Passing Rate? Most of the accredited Birmingham AL area medical assistant schools develop their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are interested in taking the CMA for example, then of course you will want to select a program focused on that certification. Next, learn what the program’s passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is just one of the means to help assess the quality of a college’s program. Naturally programs with lower rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Provided? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to getting 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, however the average is about one year. Or you can choose to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take about two years to complete in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you choose to pursue, make sure that the Birmingham AL area schools you are looking at provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? A large number of Alabama medical assistant schools offer internship programs with local healthcare providers. They are a great means to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the Birmingham AL medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Getting that very first job may be a difficult task for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are evaluating provide job placement assistance and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its students, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. It also suggests that it has a broad network of contacts in the Birmingham AL area to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to instructors and face to face interaction. If convenient, try to sit in on a couple of classes before choosing a program in the Birmingham AL area to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full-time, it’s important that the school you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends in Birmingham AL, verify that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will still have to schedule any internships or clinical training that will be required. Also, find out what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Enroll in the Best Medical Assistant Course in Birmingham AL
It’s essential to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will furnish the right training. Whether you’re planning to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to obtain the right info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of schools providing training these days that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, confirm that the program you select is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan 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 ultimately start a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Birmingham AL.
Why Did You Choose to Be a CMA?When prepping to interview for a medical assistant position, it's helpful to reflect on questions you might be asked. One of the things that interviewers often ask applicants is "What drove you to pick medical assistance as a profession?". What the interviewer is trying to learn is not only the personal reasons you might have for being a CMA, but also what attributes and talents you possess that make you good at your profession. You will likely be asked questions relating specifically to medical assisting, in addition to a certain number of routine interview questions, so you must prepare some strategies about how you want to address them. Because there are numerous factors that go into choosing a career, you can respond to this primary question in a variety of ways. When readying an answer, attempt to include the reasons the work interests you in addition to the abilities you have that make you an excellent medical assistant and the ideal candidate for the position. Don't try to memorize a response, but write down some ideas and talking points that pertain to your own strengths and experiences. Going over sample answers can assist you to develop your own thoughts, and inspire ideas of what to include to wow the recruiter.
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