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Many community colleges and vocational schools offer associate's programs in medical assisting that combine classes in topics such as office procedures, medical terminology and anatomy with lab work that teaches students skills such as drawing blood and using simple medical testing equipment.
Most medical assistant programs require that students obtain supervised experience in a medical office. Students must meet a school's admission requirements, which can include a health screening and entrance exam. These programs usually consist of about 45 credit hours, and most take a little over a year to complete.
The courses in a medical assistant program cover both clinical and administrative medical topics. A program may teach students how to properly draw blood samples, understand safety guidelines, monitor blood glucose levels, perform an electrocardiogram and prepare laboratory specimens. Some programs may provide additional instruction in medical office procedures, such as medical record management, medical terminology, health system regulations, data management and medical billing. Programs also commonly require that students complete a medical assisting practicum. Course content may include:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that there were 584,970 jobs held by medical assistants who earned an annual mean wage of $31,220 as of May 2014 (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected a job growth of 23% for the field in the decade of 2014-2024. Medical assistants with certification were expected to have the best employment opportunities.
Certification or licensing is not required for medical assistants, but according to the BLS certification can allow individuals to demonstrate their knowledge gained from completing a formal training program. Voluntary certification is available from organizations such as the American Association of Medical Assistants. Specific certification requirements are determined by each organization, but typically applicants must meet training requirements and pass a certification exam in order to become certified.