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How To Choose The Right Medical Assistant School For You
One of the most difficult questions a person will ever have to answer is “what do you want to do with your life?” Choosing a career path means you are saying yes to one option and saying no to many other options, which is why this decision is so critical.
It is no secret the average working adult will spend more time on a job than with family, sleeping, or vacationing. That’s why it is important to choose a career that makes you happy, provides a stable income, and improves your overall quality of life. In essence, life is too short to spend it working at a job that makes you miserable. For individuals choosing a job in the medical field, service and success go hand in hand, but without the proper education, this goal can never be achieved.
When it comes to becoming a medical assistant knowing your options and choosing what works best for your lifestyle is paramount to your ultimate success. The average cost of training can vary by school and degree, but it generally takes students a year to complete the program with the average cost ranging from $2,500 and $5,000. If you are seeking to obtain an associate’s degree as well, a student can expect to pay roughly $5,400 per year, totaling over $10,000 by the end of the second year.
Being knowledgeable of the various offerings in specific locations is one of the fastest ways to help you narrow your choices. When considering a program, you may first want to ask yourself these specific questions. If the answer is no, you can immediately mark that program off of your list without wasting time for lengthy phone calls or unnecessary campus visits.
First and foremost, it is important to know if the program is accredited. If you are seeking certification, the program needs to be accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. If the program is not accredited, then you will not be able sit for the CMA exam, which will drastically reduce your options for employment. Obviously, you do not want to waste your time or efforts, so call the school before you visit to make sure the program is accredited.
Another important consideration is the cost of the entire program. Many schools charge different rates, so it is important to speak with a financial aid specialist at the specific school to see if you qualify for any scholarships or financial aid such as grants or student loans. When figuring the cost, be sure to add in the cost of tuition, fees,books, and housing if you plan to live on campus or relocate. If you plan to stay where you are, it is important to consider the cost of commuting and living expenses, as well as your plans to work or forgo working during the time you are pursuing certification.
Additionally, some schools now offer online programs, which might be a viable option if you are in need of childcare or have limited hours that you can attend classes. Distance education and evening classes are also becoming more and more popular as schools’ technology increases and the desire to provide flexible scheduling to students grows. Whatever the constraints, do not let a hectic schedule stand in the way of you getting ahead in your career.
Some schools offer certification only, while others offer an associate’s degree as well. Depending on your desires post completion, you will definitely want to weigh your options. Obviously, obtaining a an associate’s degree takes longer (two years) and is more costly (roughly $10,000), but the degree certainly speaks to a more well-rounded education and makes you more marketable to future employers. If you are unsure of the options offered at the specific school, an academic counselor can inform you and help you make the wisest decision for your future.
Test Prep and Job Placement
Arguably, one of the biggest hurdles in becoming a medical assistant is sitting for the CMA exam. Most schools offer classes to help students prepare for the exam by emphasizing topics covered on the exam such as pharmacology, procedures, first aid, patient relations, and lab procedures. While these classes build confidence and skills,it is not impossible to pass the exam without test prep.
However, the availability of these classes are certainly an attraction that a prospective student should look for when selecting a school, especially considering the fact that the exam costs between $150 or $250 depending upon whether the individual is a recent graduate or a member of AAMA. When visiting or calling about schools, it is a very good practice to ask an admissions director about the school’s passing rate for the CMA exam. Additionally, you may want to ask how these scores compare with the national average and how many students receive full-time work upon graduation.
Other attractive features offered by some schools are internships or job placement programs upon graduation. Obviously, the likelihood of finding employment after completion is increased by schools who offer these options to students. An academic counselor would be able to answer any questions regarding placements and internships.
Other factors to consider:
Lastly, when comparing schools, it is important to look at class size, hands-on learning opportunities, and tutoring services. Smaller classes allow you to have individualized instruction. In this environment, instructors are able to give special attention to your needs and concerns in an effort to support to you every step of the way. Similarly, tutoring services provide you additional assistance when you are experiencing difficulties. Ultimately, you want a school that is going to best serve your needs as you prepare for the workforce.