With the healthcare industry expanding rapidly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2030, demand for medical assistants will increase by 18 percent, which is much faster than the national average.
With a high-demand industry and different training opportunities, many find themselves asking which type of training is best? We’re here to help! The short answer is, as long as you seek training from an accredited school, any program should give you the preparation you need.
What works best for you will differ depending on your learning style, budget, and the length of time you want to be in school. To help you make the best informed decision possible, we have created this guide. Read further for more information.
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Medical assistants can work in a variety of facilities including hospitals and various doctors’ offices/medical centers.
They may perform both administrative and clinical duties. Medical assistants typically work with patients and their families, taking vitals, running tests, preparing and cleaning exam rooms, and keeping track of medical records.
Other responsibilities of medical assistants include, but are not limited to:
- Recording the medical history of patients
- Administrative/clerical work at the front desk
- Taking vitals
- Preparing patients for exams
- Assisting doctors during an exam/procedure
- Performing lab tests
- Sterilization of medical instruments and exam rooms
If you are someone interested in medicine, capable of handling the above responsibilities, and would enjoy working with doctors and nurses, then becoming a CMA would likely be a great fit for you.
Medical Assistant Training
There are a few different options when it comes to medical assistant training:
- Enroll in a community college
- You can earn your associate degree for medical assisting. These programs normally take around 2 years to complete.
- Enroll in a vocational school
- You can earn a certificate or diploma by enrolling in a medical assistant training program at an accredited vocational school. These programs can be completed in as few as 10 months.
Both community colleges and vocational schools commonly combine classroom learning with hands-on training. Online options are generally available as well. The main differences you will find between the two schooling options are in terms of cost and program length.
Medical Assistant Training: Associate Degree
Applying to a community college to receive your associate degree in medical assisting typically takes around 2 years to complete. You may also take other core courses within math, English, or scientific fields. There might also be hybrid class options available offering a combination of online and classroom instruction.
Receiving your associates can range in price between $10,000-$15,000 and greater. Keep in mind, you may need to purchase your own supplies and classroom materials which can add to your cost as well.
To earn your certification, you will need to take your AAMA exam. According to the American Association of Medical Assistants, this exam can be taken either within a year of graduation, or 30 days before graduating from your program.
Medical Assistant Training: Certificate Program
Enrolling in a certificate program will have you career-ready in as few as 10 months. It is a shorter path to becoming a medical assistant, and can accumulate less student debt. A typical certificate program ranges closer to $2,000-$5,000 in cost.
There are also accredited online medical certification programs available. Online programs are convenient and flexible, and are popular among students with demanding jobs and other commitments.
Whether the program you choose is on campus, completely online, or a combination of both, you will also be required to take the AAMA exam before earning your certificate.
Courses in a Medical Assistant Training Program
As you train to become a medical assistant, you will likely enroll in courses that cover the following. These include but are not limited to:
- Medical Terminology
- Human Biology
- Computer Courses
- Medical Law and Ethics
- Diagnostic Laboratory Procedures
- MA Clinical Procedures
- Pathology and Prevention
- Intercultural Communications
- A Capstone Course
Each of these courses is designed to give students the knowledge and hands-on skills needed to become a CMA. You will not only need to know the information, but will need to apply it in a clinical setting. In addition, if you are enrolled in a community college, you will likely take other core classes unrelated to the medical field.
What Should I Look for in a Medical Assistant Training Program?
One of the most important factors when choosing a training program is making sure that it’s accredited by one of the following organizations:
- The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
Program accreditation from either is essential to becoming a CMA. Students will only be qualified to take the AAMA exam if your institution is accredited. You must pass the AAMA exam to become a certified medical assistant.
Are internships offered in your training program? Internships not only give you the hands-on experience you need, but can also give you a competitive edge in the job market. Potential employers may favor an applicant with internship experience over one without experience.
Job Placement Programs
Your program may help you in ways outside of internships as well. One of these ways is through job placement programs. If your program offers job placement services, be sure to take advantage of them. These services can be a great way to navigate a competitive job market after earning your degree, and to get experience in your field.
How Hands-On are the Classes?
Every reputable medical assistant program will provide hands-on experience, however, some offer more in-depth experience than others. Take your time when researching a school or program to see if onsite labs are available. Is the classwork itself hands on? The more experience a program gives you, the more confident you should feel entering an internship or even a job.
A career as a medical assistant is predicted to be a stable one in coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that medical assistants in 2022 averaged a salary of $40,700 with the top 10 percent earning $51,710.
Become a Medical Assistant Today!
A career as a medical assistant can be an exciting and fulfilling one. With a variety of responsibilities and the ability to work alongside doctors and nurses, no two workdays will look the exact same.
Whether you decide to begin your journey at a community college or in an accredited certificate program, you should feel ready for a rewarding career ahead! Find medical assistant training today!