Becoming a Medical Assistant After Completion of a Medical Assiting Program
Students with a high school or GED diploma can apply to medical assistant schools. A medical assistant associate program includes coursework in computer applications and medical coding. Learners also complete an externship at a primary care clinic or another healthcare setting.
Medical assistants work in doctors' offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers. Some graduates return to school to become an RN, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner. These academic programs may award credit for learners' prior education and experience.
Read on to learn about medical assistant schools and common medical assisting courses.View Our Rankings List Here
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Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Assisting
How long does it take to become a medical assistant?
Learners can complete an associate program in two years. Part-time students may need more time.
What is the difference between a medical assistant and a certified nursing assistant (CNA)?
CNAs work exclusively with patients, helping them shower and eat. Medical assistants perform these roles but also complete administrative tasks, such as maintaining records.
Do medical assistants need a license?
Medical assistants do not need a license. However, some employers prefer applicants with a professional certification.
Why Get a Degree in Medical Assisting?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for medical assistants to grow 18% between 2020 and 2030. This is more than double the median projected growth rate for all jobs.
Aspiring medical assistants should research medical assistant schools. Many top schools offer coursework entirely online. This allows students to continue their careers or raise their children. Many online medical assistant programs run asynchronously. However, some programs include in-person requirements.
How Much Does a Medical Assisting Degree Cost?
The cost of a medical assisting degree varies by school and program. Medical assistant schools may charge $1,200 to more than $10,000 per year. Public in-state medical assistant schools offer the most affordable tuition. Some programs provide a tuition discount to learners who pay their tuition upfront. These savings may also extend to school and lab fees.
Students who enroll in online medical assistant programs can save on commuting costs. They may also pay less in tuition than on-campus students. Financial aid such as scholarships and grants can help learners pay for their degree.
How Much Do Medical Assisting Majors Make?
Medical assistants earn a median annual salary of $35,850. They can increase their salary by working at outpatient care centers and hospitals. These job sites offer $1,500-$3,000 more annually. Medical assistants can also explore careers in Alaska, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Workers located there earn $45,340-$46,610 per year.
Medical assistants with an associate degree can return to school to become licensed practical nurses, medical records specialists, or occupational therapy assistants. These professionals make $45,240-$60,950 annually.
Find Medical Assistant Salaries in Your State
Courses in Medical Assisting
Medical assistant schools focus on in-demand skills. Learners study insurance basics and medical terms. Students also explore professionalism and ethics. Graduation requirements vary by school. Typical courses include medical terminology and an introduction to billing and coding.
Medical assistant programs require clinical rotations in different healthcare settings. Students complete supervised externships and end the program with a capstone course.
See below for common courses in medical assistant programs.
The course trains students on how to recognize and use typical medical terms. Courses cover these words' Latin roots, suffixes, and prefixes. Learners review vocabulary they should apply when working with medical professionals and preparing documents. Students take this course early in the program.
Medical billing and coding ensures that healthcare providers get paid for their services. Learners study the health insurance industry and reimbursement procedures. Students learn how to submit a claim form and process payments. Learners continue to develop these skills during clinical rotations.
Introduction to Billing and Coding
Medical assistants do not diagnose illnesses or treat diseases. But these professionals must understand the body's structures and functions. Students analyze how different body systems work and interact. Some courses require an in-person laboratory element. Participants complete active learning exercises with anatomical models.
Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology
How to Become a Medical Assistant
Aspiring medical assistants need a certificate or associate degree. Learners should get hands-on experience through an internship or externship. These experiences also help learners build their resume. Students may need to maintain a minimum GPA to remain in good academic standing.
Medical assistants complete many duties. They record patients' medical histories and schedule appointments. They also help doctors with exams. Job duties vary depending on workers' experience and certifications. Medical assistants can stay current in their field through professional development.
Licensure and Certification for Medical Assisting
Medical assistants do not need a state-issued license to practice. However, earning a professional certification can make them more appealing job candidates. Popular certifications include certified medical assistant and registered medical assistant. Professionals working in podiatry or ophthalmology may pursue a specialized certification.
To qualify for certifications, students must have graduated from an approved program. Many certifications make exceptions for U.S. military-trained medical assistants. Certification exam topics and fees vary. Candidates who do not pass on their first try may retake the exam in 30-90 days by paying another fee.
Professionals may need to renew their certification every 1-5 years. The renewal process involves paying a fee and completing continuing education (CE) courses. In-person and virtual CE courses ensure workers keep up with industry best practices. Workers submit CE paperwork and a recertification fee by a deadline.