How to Choose a Medical Assistant School in Columbia South Carolina
Once you have decided to enter the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant course in Columbia SC, it’s time to choose a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the best one? Many future students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues as well. You might decide to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to finish your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the schools you are assessing. And to assist you with that process, we have included some questions that you need to ask each of the colleges on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let’s briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the kind 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 challenging. Primarily their job is to make sure that the Columbia SC hospitals, clinics and other medical care facilities where they work run efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct assistance 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 responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying basic support during exams and procedures
Even though Columbia SC medical assistants may perform almost any activity they are qualified to under South Carolina law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and obtain certification. Two of the options available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Courses and Certification
Compared to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of Columbia SC employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are generally 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically take about 1 year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are developed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs available at junior and community colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They often have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
As stated previously, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good option for individuals who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. A number of potential Columbia SC employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. 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 take the CMA exam, an applicant must have graduated or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available as well, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are a good option for individuals who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good solution for students who continue to work full time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be reduced as well. Just keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be carried out in area South Carolina health care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your training might be the best choice for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant in Columbia SC is furnished.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to determine which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus near Columbia SC or online at home. Once those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of researching schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, some students limit their searches to the colleges that are closest to home with the most affordable tuitions. Although location and cost are important qualifications, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you must explore when assessing South Carolina schools. To help you with that process, below are a few questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are many great reasons to confirm that the college you select is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged agencies 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 qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Columbia SC 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 Columbia SC area medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to find out which of the certifications the colleges you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will need to select a program targeting that certification. Second, find out what the school’s passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school’s program. Obviously programs with low rates are those that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Offered? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can decide to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about 2 years to complete in a community college or vocational school. Whatever program you decide to enroll in, make certain that the Columbia SC area schools you are reviewing offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Available? A large number of South Carolina medical assistant schools sponsor internship programs with local medical care providers. They are an excellent way to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students build relationships within the Columbia SC medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Offered? Finding that initial job may be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are researching offer job placement assistance and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of employers in the Columbia SC area to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indication of how much personal attention you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to monitor a couple of classes before enrolling in a program in the Columbia SC area to experience what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue working full time, it’s imperative that the school you select offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends in Columbia SC, verify that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will still need to schedule any internships or practical training that may be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Ideal Medical Assistant Course in Columbia SC
It’s essential to begin your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you’re goal is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must get the right info on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, confirm that the program you select is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, don’t forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Columbia SC.
Why Did You Want to Be a Certified Medical Assistant?When prepping to interview for a medical assistant job, it's important to reflect on questions you might be asked. Among the questions that hiring managers often ask applicants is "What made you choose medical assistance as a career?". What the interviewer is hoping to discover is not merely the private reasons you may have for being a Medical Assistant, but also what characteristics and talents you have that make you good at your profession. You will undoubtedly be asked questions relating specifically to medical assisting, along with a significant number of routine interview questions, so you need to prepare a number of strategies about how you want to answer them. Given that there are several variables that go into choosing a career, you can address this fundamental question in a multitude of ways. When formulating an answer, aim to include the reasons the work appeals to you along with the abilities you possess that make you an exceptional medical assistant and the ideal candidate for the job. Don't attempt to memorize an answer, but take down several concepts and topics that pertain to your own experiences and strengths. Reading through sample answers can help you to develop your own concepts, and give you ideas of what to discuss to wow the interviewer.
Some Cities in South Carolina That May Be Of Interest