Medical Assistant Schools
When you’re comparing medical assistant schools there are several things you should look at before deciding which one is right for you. One of the most important criteria is to choose a school that offers an accredited program. Other considerations include the proximity to your home, whether classes are on campus or online, the length of the program and how much it will cost, and job placement rates for graduates. Here we explore these considerations in more depth.
Medical assisting programs are available from universities, community colleges and career and technical schools. Qualifications offered include certificates, diplomas and degrees. Read on to learn more about what to look for when choosing a school and program that will fit both your schedule and your career goals.
When carrying out your research accreditation should be your top priority. Accredited programs have to fulfil specific educational standards as determined by a professional body. You should look for schools that offer programs that are accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
By selecting an accredited program you will be eligible to sit for a certification exam on completion of your training. Although certification is not essential, a certification credential will enhance your resume and be beneficial when you apply for jobs. A lot of employers stipulate that applicants must have passed a national certification exam.
Another advantage is that by completing your study on an accredited diploma or certificate program you will be able to transfer your credits to another school and work towards getting a higher degree.
Having a certification credential is not compulsory to work in an entry level medical assistant job. It is possible to find employment with only a diploma, certificate or degree credential. However, healthcare facilities are being encouraged to switch to Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and regulations mean that medical assistants have to be certified to enter orders into the Computerized Physician Order Entry (COPE) system. Therefore it is increasingly common for employers to seek applicants with a certification credential.
To obtain certification you will need to graduate from an accredited program. The top medical assistant schools include exam preparation classes on the curriculum. Several different professional organizations award certification credentials. When choosing a school, look for one that offers preparation for any of the following certifications:
- Certified Medical Assistant, CMA (AAMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
- Registered Medical Assistant, RMA (AMT) from the American Medical Technologists
- National Certified Medical Assistant, NCMA from the National Center for Competency Testing
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, CCMA from the National Healthcareer Association
- Certified Medical Administrative Specialist, CMAS from the National Healthcareer Association
Be sure to compare the content of the curriculums offered by different educational institutions. Courses on accredited programs will include a combination of theoretical and practical lessons covering administrative and clinical topics.
Some colleges and universities offer flexible on campus timetables, such as evening classes, or online lessons, to enable students to fit their study around work and family responsibilities. Whether you opt for a campus based or online course is a personal decision and depends on your circumstances, schedule and learning preferences.
How far away from campus you live or work and how easy it is to travel there is a big factor. Online classes allow you the freedom to study anytime and anywhere. However, many students enjoy the face-to-face interaction with instructors and students that attending campus classes brings. Some schools offer hybrid programs, which are a mix of campus based and online classes.
Whichever route you decide is best for you, look for a curriculum that includes internship or externship opportunities. This type of practical learning will give you vital experience of working in a real world setting such as a clinic or medical office. Practical work experience looks great on your resume and can make you a more desirable candidate when you apply for jobs.
The schools with the best job placement rates are those that work closely with their internship and externship sites. In many cases, the healthcare facilities where students complete their internship or externship go on to offer them a job once they graduate, if a suitable role is available. For this reason, it is a good idea to take into account job placement rates when picking a school.
Length of Training
Another thing to look at when you’re doing your research is how long a program will take to complete. The length of a course will depend on the curriculum requirements of each school as well as whether you intend to study full or part time.
As a rough guide, it can generally take around 12 months to complete a certificate or diploma program. Associate’s degrees are typically offered as 2 year programs.
If you opt to study part time then your training will take longer, but you will have the more hours spare for work or family commitments.
The cost of training to become a medical assistant is something you will want to find out. How much you can expect to pay will depend on the educational institution as well as the type and length of the program you enrol on.
The College Board’s 2017 Trends in College Pricing survey estimates the average budget for full-time public two-year college students is $17,580. This figure includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other expenses. Of this tuition and fees make up 20 percent of the budget, at $3,570.
Schools publish the cost of tuition and fees. Be sure to compare costs but also remember that financial aid is available from federal and state sources, as well as scholarships.
The information provided here should give you an idea of what to look for when you’re researching schools. Once you’ve enrolled on a program you’ll be one step closer to joining the medical assisting profession. Why not get started today?