Medical Assistant

OK! So it’s 11 o’clock in the morning. For whatever reason, especially with the way the economy is, you are out of work, you have no job prospects lined up, and you very little or no marketable job skills. You are watching TV when all of a sudden, you see a commercial for a trade school that promises you that you’ll get out of your dead-end job, have an exciting well-paid career that you’ll love, that you’ll be on Easy Street, and that your life will be much happier. These schools offer training in the medical, computer, and criminal justice fields.

You call the number the number on the screen, you make an appointment to go in and meet with an Admissions Rep (who is actually a salesperson). He or she talks to you about the program that you’re going to take. You plunk down a hefty amount of money for the admission fee, fill out and sign all of the paperwork, as well as meet with the Financial Aid Rep to go over your financial aid package, and then you’re all set to start classes there.

Then all of a sudden, you’re not satisfied with the training. You find out that the equipment is shoddy and out-of-date, the teachers are inefficient, and decide that the course you signed up for is simply not for you. You decide to drop out, you can’t get your money back, and you’re stuck paying back a student loan that costs several thousand dollars. Even if you graduate, you can’t even get a job in the field that you trained in. You go to the “career placement” office; they send out your resume, but none of the cmopanies will hire you. They either want somebody with a four-degree from a recognized college or university, actual job experience in the field, training from an industry-recognized program, or a combination of all of them. You are then back right where you started from; working at a low-paying dead-end job with no future and no benefits.

I should know: I know this from experience. Back in the mid-80’s, I checked out a business school before I decided to enroll there.I too saw one of their commercials, where the girl calls the personnel director about a job; he asks her is she has any experience, she says no, and the personnel director couldn’t help her.

I had taken their general office clerk/receptionist course. I qualified for financial aid: a $2500 loan and the rest was a grant. Even though the classes were small, the teachers gave you individualized attention, and there were no lectures, I did not get a job through them. They only sent me on two interviews and that was it, and I am still paying back this $2500 loan. (Unfortunately, the school closed in 1990.) I also checked them out with the Better Business Bureau as well as talked to a few of the students there. Although I didn’t get a job through them, I was able to apply some of the skills that I learned there to a few of my previous jobs.

Whether you want to train in the medical, computer, legal, criminal justice, or any other field; as well as plunk down your hard-earned money and enroll, check out the school first. Check them out with Better Business Bureau, State and Local Consumer Protection Office, the State and U.S. Department of Eduation. Find out how long they have been in business. Contact employers who have hired graduates of the school. Better yet, find out what type of training program you need in order to qualify for a job there. Find out the backgrounds of the teachers. See if they have teaching credentials and industry experience. Find out if their training is up-to-date and suited to the employers’ needs. Sit in on a class. Talk to a few of the students. Don’t let the Admissions Rep pressure you into enrolling. Ask questions? Take your time and shop around for the right school. Read the enrollment contract carefully before you decide to sign up. Find out about their refund policies if the training doesn’t work out for you. Don’t let them take advantage of you.

Also, find out the pros and cons of the field that you want to train in. The TV commercials may tell you how glamorous and exciting the medical field may be, but believe me; it is not. For example, if you’re going to become a medical or dental assistant, you have to learn how to draw blood, assist the doctor with a patient, clean the patient’s teet, look into their mouths, take the patient’s vital signs, fill out all the paperwork, deal with all types of sicknesses and diseases, medical emergencies, crying children, and so forth. You even have to pass a state test before you can even get a job as a medical assistant.

Ditto for the criminal justice field. If you decide to go into this field, you are putting your life at risk. How many times have you heard of police officers being shot, killed, or paralyzed in the line of duty? An FBI agent was shot and killed during the Peggy Ann Bradnick kidnapping here in Pennsylvania back in May of ’66. Speaking of police officers, five police officers here in Philadelphia have been shot and killed in the line of duty in the last year and a half. There is nothing glamorous and exciting about working at murder, rape, robbery, or burglary scene; handling a drug bust, dealing with violent and unruly inmates, or preventing corporate theft..

Investigate before you invest. If worse comes to worse, go to a two-year or four-year college. At least you’ll get a degree that employers will recognize.
These trade schools need to stop glamorizing the fields that the teach and focus on the reality of them.