Choosing a medical assistant degree is a very personal process.
Should you take the quickest and most direct route to the job market with a certificate or diploma, or take your time in an associate's degree program? Neither timeframe for medical assistant training is inherently better than the other, so the question becomes, which is right for you?
What to Expect
Your medical assistant training program should prepare you for a variety of tasks in a hospital, clinic or private medical practice environment. Your job duties will range from taking vital signs to scheduling patient appointments, so you'll need medical assistant training that covers a spectrum of administrative tasks as well as patient care procedures.
You'll also get plenty of real-world practice during your externship in a hospital or doctor's office. Medical assistant training courses include:
- Clinical and diagnostic procedures
- First aid
- Human anatomy
- Keyboarding and computer applications
- Laboratory techniques
- Medical billing and insurance coding
- Medical law and ethics
- Medical terminology
- Medication administration
- Office practices
- Patient relations
- Record-keeping and accounting
Types of Medical Assistant Programs
Certificate or Diploma
Length of program: 9 months to a year to complete
Where the programs are offered: Career colleges and community colleges. Career college programs usually have a faster time to completion.
What the program offers: A certificate or diploma in medical assisting will give you the essential skills you need to enter the workforce with confidence. Your studies will be tailored specifically for a medical assistant career and won't take up your time with liberal arts classes that don't directly apply to your career goals.
Length of program: Associate-level medical assistant degree programs last 2 years
Where the programs are offered: Career colleges and community colleges.
What the program offers: You'll learn the basic skills you'll need to be a medical assistant, but beyond that, your studies will include other general education curriculum that will improve your overall knowledge and marketability with prospective employers. Here's an example of course work from Lake Washington Institute of Technology's Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in medical assisting:
- Human Biology with Lab
- Phlebotomy and Blood-borne Pathogens
- Medical Computer Applications
- Written Communication
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Social Science
One of the main advantages of an associate's degree in medical assisting is that it will give you a good foundation to pursue more education in the future. The credits you earn in your associate's program will count toward earning a bachelor's or master's degree if you decide that medical assisting isn't the ultimate destination on your career path.
Medical Assistant School Accreditation
Regardless of where you complete your medical assistant training, make sure your school is accredited by one of the following accrediting bodies if you want medical assistant certification: