Medical Assistants (MA) play a vital role in the healthcare industry, providing essential support to healthcare professionals and ensuring patients are at ease and properly cared for.
If you’re looking to enter this rewarding profession, the most important first steps to take is selecting a school and a medical assisting program that aligns with your career aspirations. And crucial factor to consider when deciding is whether both the school and program are accredited.
Obtaining a medical assistant certification from an accredited institution increases the likelihood of you securing a job as a medical assistant.
With all that said, this article will help you further understand why you should choose accredited medical assistant programs and schools to successfully pursue a career as a MA.
What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is a process by which a school or program is evaluated to ensure that it meets certain standards of quality and effectiveness. It is somewhat like a “stamp of approval” granted by independent accrediting agencies to provide peace of mind to students that the medical assistant program is legitimate.
There are two main types of accreditation:
Regional accreditation is typically given to public institutions and non-profit private universities. National accreditation, on the other hand, is usually granted to vocational schools, career programs, and industry-specific certifications.
Regional accreditation is generally considered more prestigious than national accreditation due to its higher standards and more rigorous evaluation process.
In the case of medical assistant schools, the top two accrediting agencies are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
These agencies are widely recognized and accepted in the healthcare industry. To be eligible for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification, candidates must graduate from a medical assisting certificate program that is accredited by either of these agencies.
Why Accreditation Matters for Medical Assistant Schools
Attending an accredited medical assisting program is essential to sit for the CMA certification exam.
Accredited medical assistant schools have undergone a rigorous review process by an accrediting agency to ensure that it’s qualified to provide instruction to medical assisting students.
A. Quality assurance
Accreditation serves as a crucial quality assurance guide for students, ensuring schools provide students with quality education and training.
Accrediting agencies evaluate medical assistant programs and schools against set standards, such as:
- Have the goal of providing medical assisting students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors.
- Has sufficient resources, including faculty, staff, student services, administration, and financial well-being.
- Adheres to the curriculum that meets or surpasses the Medical Assisting Education Review Board (MAERB) standards.
Attending an accredited medical assistant school has several benefits, including increased job opportunities, the potential to transfer credits, and eligibility for financial aid programs.
B. Career readiness
Attending an accredited medical assisting program offers you a student-focused, fast-tracked curriculum that focuses on practical skills necessary for success. You’ll be provided with a solid knowledge base that prepares you for certification and your future career as an MA.
Through an accredited medical assistant school, you’ll be trained in essential skills, such as effectively communicating with colleagues and patients, assisting with medical procedures, and performing administrative tasks.
As mentioned previously, the only way to become a certified or registered medical assistant is to attend a medical assistant program that has been accredited by one of the major accrediting agencies.
In addition, accreditation helps students significantly when it comes to beginning their internships and job searches after graduation. Many employers prefer candidates with accredited programs, making it a significant advantage in the job market.
Accredited programs also afford you greater opportunities to change fields in medical assisting. If you’re interested in performing both clinical and administrative work, you can apply for a certified medical assistant (CMA), certified medical administrative assistant (CMAA), or registered medical assistant (RMA) certification.
On the other hand, if you prefer to focus on clinical tasks, you can become a national certified medical assistant (NCMA) or a certified clinical medical assistant (CCMA).
How to Verify Medical Assistant School Accreditation
When considering enrolling in a medical assistant program or school, it’s incredibly important to verify the accreditation of both before making a commitment.
Here are three steps you can take to verify if a school is accredited:
- Check the school’s website: Most institutions will have information on their website (either homepage or “about us” page about their accrediting agency.
- Check out the accreditation agency’s website: Go to the accrediting agency’s official website to confirm the school’s accreditation status. The website should contain a database or list of member schools.
- Verify the accreditor’s legitimacy: Ensure the accrediting agency is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education website or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Both provide a list of legitimate accrediting agencies on their websites.
To verify the accreditation status of a medical assisting program, look for programs accredited by the CAAHEP or ABHES.
While all this research on accreditation may seem laborious, it’s incredibly important to do your due diligence when selecting a medical assistant school and program.
Attending an unaccredited school or program poses risks for aspiring medical assistants. You could find it difficult to find a job due to a lack of recognition by employers, be unable to receive financial aid options, and become ineligible to take certification exams.
How long does it take for an MA school to become accredited?
Accreditation is both a continuous improvement process and an accountability system that involves a series of steps. How long it will take from candidacy to accreditation can vary and is influenced by how long the MA school has been in operation and its adherence to the Requirements of Affiliation.
Can you practice as an MA without attending an accredited school?
While medical assistants are not required to be licensed or certified, there are many career benefits to obtaining a medical assistant certification. Many employers require medical assistants to have completed an MA program and hold a certification or registration. They also prefer to a hire candidate who is a certified or registered medical assistant.
Are online MA programs accredited?
Yes, some online medical assistant programs are accredited by recognized accrediting agencies. Just like in-person MA programs, online MA programs should be accredited by ABHES or CAAHEP. Additionally, some states may have a specific requirement for online medical assistant programs, so it’s important to research.
What happens if I attend a non-accredited MA school?
Attending a non-accredited medical assistant school is not an ideal option for aspiring medical assistants. Several disadvantages come with attending an uncredited school, including difficulty finding employment, inability to sit for certification exams, and ineligibility for federal financial aid.
A successful career in medical assisting starts with an accredited medical assistant program and school. Remember to look out for medical assistant programs accredited by CAAHEP or ABHES, the two top accrediting agencies.
When you choose an accredited medical assisting program or school, you benefit from high-quality education and career-focused training. This can lead to increased job opportunities, eligibility for financial aid, higher salary potential, and room for career advancements.