This article details the advantages of earning a certificate or degree as a medical assistant, which is one of the fastest growing professions in America. This article explains the types of certificates and degrees available, how to choose a program, accreditation and more.
What is Medical Assistant Certification?
This is an academic certificate that is given to a student who has completed a program as a medical assistant. Generally, one can enter the medical assistant field by earning a postsecondary education certificate. There may still be some employers that will hire medical assistants with only a high school education, but generally most medical offices want professionals with a certificate.
Some of these programs provide a certificate, but others will give you an associate’s degree. Either is fine; you should just be sure that the program is accredited so that you can continue your education later on if you choose to do so.
Why Earn Medical Assistant Certification?
The field of medical assisting is a booming field, with 23% job growth anticipated by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the population is getting older, they are demanding more healthcare services. In addition, there is a stronger focus today on limiting health care costs, which is causing medical assistants to be used to do both administrative and clinical duties.
When you are a medical assistant and are working in a medical office, you will have many different clinical and clerical tasks to do every day – from setting up patient appointments to taking blood pressure and weight of patients. Whichever medical assisting program you select, you should be able to find plenty of job demand.
One of the advantages of a medical assistant career is that it is relatively easy to break into the field. Generally, you only need to earn a certificate that takes approximately a year to complete. At that point, you can start to work and gain experience. In some cases, you may be able to start working in a medical office without your certificate and essentially be an intern. Then, when you earn your certificate, you can start to work full time.
After you have gained more experience, you may decide to get a bachelor’s degree in health administration or even a master’s degree. With a certificate as a medical assistant, you will have many future career possibilities.
Registered and Certified Medical Assistant Advantages
As noted above, some medical assistants in past years have entered this booming profession with a mere high school education. Today however, medical assistants are being trusted to do more, and many employers want their medical assistants to have a medical assistant certificate, and to be registered.
To become a registered medical assistant, you need to have at least five years of medical assistant experience, or a medical assistant degree. You also need to take the examination proctored by the American Registry of Medical Assistants.
Another option is to become a certified medical assistant. This examination is conducted by the American Association of Medical Assistants. With your certificate and your registration or certification, you will be among the most desirable job candidates.
Choosing Your Medical Assistant Certification Path
If you have decided that a career as a medical assistant is for you, you will need to figure out where you want to go to school. The great news is that there are literally thousands of medical assistant programs across the US.
Many are offered on campus at community colleges, and many also are now offered online. These are affordable programs that can be completed relatively quickly, and then you can start working. Some of the best online medical assistant certificate options are:
- Ashworth College: This is a four to six month program that prepares you for the National Healthcare Association’s Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) certification. You can expect courses medical terminology; body systems; disease processes and surgical procedures; medical law and ethics; medical records; medical coding, and medical office management.
- Herzing University: This online university provides graduates with all of the skills and knowledge that they need to work in a medical practice, nursing home, public clinic or critical care facility. This online university offers several options – a BS in Healthcare Management; an Associate’s Degree in Medical Assisting Services; and Diploma in Medical Assisting Services.
- Pima Medical Institute: This online program will benefit you with highly respected instructors who are professionally and academically qualified to provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed as a medical assistant. Most students are able to earn their certificate in only nine months. Classes you will take focus on medical office lab procedures; examination techniques; clinical aspects of coding and billing; and surgical procedures.
- Orion College: This medical assistant program results in a diploma that you can earn in approximately 10 months. You will be introduced to a large amount of information and education about administrative and clinical medicine: anatomy and physiology; clinical procedures; pharmacology for medical assistants; radiography procedures; occupational safety; and clinical training. You also will need to complete a laboratory and externship at a clinical site in your area.
- Daytona College: This is an online Associate of Science Degree in Medical Assisting that will provide you with the skills that you need to perform successfully under the direction of a physician in a private or group medical practice. The online curriculum can be completed in nine months and will include instruction in recording vital signs; performing diagnostic tests; medication administration and specimen collection/processing; office correspondence; and insurance and billing.
One of the most important factors in selecting your online medical assistant program is whether it has been accredited by a highly respected accreditation agency. After all, a certificate from an unaccredited institution may be questioned by a future employer.
You should look for accreditation from one or both of these respected organizations:
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
Also, if your program is accredited by these entities, you also will know that the program will be teaching you the essentials to do well in a career as a medical assistant. You also will be able to build on the certificate by earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and you will know that your past education will transfer.
Choosing a good, accredited medical assistant program is a vital step in your healthcare career, so be sure to choose wisely.