Finding the right medical assistant training program is the first step on a new career path. It is not as easy as it sounds, though.
As the need for medical assistants continues to grow, more and more of these programs will pop up. So, what should you look for when searching for a medical assistant program?
Before you even get to the point where you look for training options, you must first understand what this career means. A medical assistant is a critical member of the patient care team. The exact duties will depend on the employer and even the day.
Generally speaking, a medical assistant provides both administrative and clinical services. They may take a patient history, for example, and vital signs. This prep work gives the healthcare provider essential information before seeing the patient. They may also do appointment scheduling or generate referrals.
Medical assistants can do front-of-house tasks like greeting patients and checking them in before an appointment. They may answer phones or correspondence, as well.
Some basic responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
Answer and direct phone calls
Check patients in and out
Set up appointments and referrals
Assist with medical procedures
Take vital signs
Take patient histories
Manage office inventory
Prepare examination rooms
There are several things potential medical assistant students should look for in a certificate program, starting with proper accreditation.
Checking the program's accreditation is critical if you want to pursue an academic credential. Not all medical assistants have an academic credential, but it does improve employment options and pay scale.
To qualify for the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam, the program you graduate from must have accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). There are other certification exams that have minimum program lengths or work experience requirements.
Some certification exams don't require being a graduate from an accredited program, but employers generally prefer a medical assistant to have their MA credential.
Of course, the cost will always be something you want to consider when shopping for the right medical assistant program. Cost isn't just tuition, either. You need to factor in books, supplies, and lab fees too. For example, a medical assistant (MA) program will likely require you to purchase your own scrubs and a stethoscope, but some programs provide those for you.
It might be possible to work during some of your training, especially if you choose a blended or hybrid program that offers online classes and in-person labs. You will need time off while doing your clinical portion of the training. However, if your employer supports your effort to go back to school, they may be willing to give you that time.
For many, financial aid will allow them to afford to take a program. If financial aid is necessary for you, look for a program that can guide you. Look beyond student loans, too. Financial aid can mean scholarships or grants. Some schools offer discounts for military service. Look for a program with a financial aid coordinator or department for assistance.
The program's admission requirements vary from school to school. Most will require a high school diploma or equivalent. They may also require a background check, an entrance assessment, and some prerequisite studies. Some schools have an interview process because they have limited availability, while others can take on any student that meets their basic age and entrance requirements.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding the curriculum offered in the program. There are a few things you want to consider, though. For example, how long will it take to graduate? It will vary from program to program.
Some schools will accept transfer credits and even consider high school AP classes. They may also give you credit for vocational experience. If you have some experience in healthcare, a shorter program might suit your needs. If you want a comprehensive program of study and don't mind taking some time to complete a program, then a slightly longer program may be the best for you.
Consider what level of education you want to leave the program with, too. Are you looking for certificate or diploma program, which are the most common? That program will give you access to good employment opportunities and be shorter, usually less than a year of study. On the other hand, if you want at least an associate degree, you can expect to be in school for at least two years.
Keep in mind that most programs involve an externship. That may or may not be included in the time listed for program completion, but it is a critical part of the training.
Look for a program that helps you with externship placement. Externships allow you to practice the skills you’ve learned in an actual healthcare setting following a mentor, and it is also a chance to network. Some employers will hire the students that do externships with them right after completing the program, so this placement is vital. You want a program that partners with and has an established network of employers to help find externships for their students.
Job placement assistance and career services are important considerations when shopping for a medical assistant program. Although no school will guarantee you will be placed, schools offering job placement assistance gives their students an edge in the market with job search, interviewing skills, and career planning guidance. Many employers work with these schools to get access to potential employees.
The Medical Assistant Program at The College of Health Care Professions (CHCP) checks all the boxes, especially if you live in Texas. CHCP is institutionally accredited by ABHES, offering medical assistant training programs for over 30 years, and has a statewide network of employer partners. CHCP even has an Accelerate program where you can transfer your Medical Assistant credits to a CHCP associate degree program if you wish to continue your education. In addition, the school offers both financial aid for those who qualify and job placement assistance for graduates.
The Medical Assistant Programs at CHCP takes 36 to 48 weeks to complete. The on-campus program is a blended program and is offered both day and evening, so you take classes in-person from one to three days a week and complete your other assignments online at your convenience. There are campuses across the state, including Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, McAllen, and San Antonio. The MA Program is also available online where you complete the majority of your coursework online and then attend labs at one of the CHCP campuses in Texas a few weekends during the program.
To qualify, you will need a high school diploma or GED, interview with an admissions advisor, and pass an entrance assessment. At the end of the program, you will get real-life externship learning experiences by working on-site at a local healthcare facility. You may even be offered a job at your externship site after graduation as many do.
Founded by physicians, this school has been training healthcare professionals for over 30 years. CHCP's medical assistant training program graduates learn clinical and administrative skills, giving them the tools to work at the front desk and in a hands-on medical role.
Find out more about what CHCP offers by checking out our website today!