Pediatric Medical Assistant Training and Education Program Options

Pediatric medical assistants work as a direct link between their young patients and the physician, performing a variety of clinical and administrative functions. Many employers require medical assistants (MAs) to hold a diploma, certificate or associate degree in medical assisting, along with voluntary certification.

Essential Information

Educational programs are found at many 2-year colleges; prerequisites are generally a high school diploma or GED. Professional certification requires completing one of these programs, passing an exam and renewing the certification every five years. After five years of experience, the MA can test for an advanced certification.

In diploma, certificate and associate degree programs, students learn the basic skills needed to work in an assistant's role in a medical practice. Courses cover administrative skills, including record keeping, billing and scheduling patients, as well as clinical work such as conducting lab tests and preparing patients for procedures. All programs mandate hands-on clinical experience. These programs do not offer specializations, such as pediatrics, but they do prepare graduates to work in any type of medical practice.

  • Program Levels in Medical Assisting: Diploma, certificate, associate's.
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED.
  • Online Availability: Commonly available online.
  • Program Length: 1-2 years of study.

Diploma in Medical Assisting

Students acquire the skills necessary for carrying out both front and back office duties, including scheduling and billing patients, preparing patients for treatment and examinations, conducting lab tests and maintaining medical records. Most diploma programs provide hands-on classroom laboratory practice, as well as a clinical practicum. Such programs generally last three semesters.

Students learn various methods and procedures having to do with patient and office management, including:

  • Laboratory methods
  • Medical office procedures and management
  • Psychology
  • Medical terminology
  • Concepts related to health insurance
  • Basic keyboarding

Certificate in Medical Assisting

Medical assisting certificate programs provide a curriculum and training approach comparable to most diploma programs. Like the diploma programs, learning combines practical laboratory training, such as learning how to draw blood, with basic patient exam duties and administrative tasks.

Courses overlap with diploma programs; specific course names, which vary by school, may include:

  • Radiography
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Laboratory techniques
  • Mathematics and pharmacology for medical assisting
  • Communication essentials

Associate's Degree in Medical Assisting

Associate's degree programs in medical assisting offer a clinical practicum and courses similar to both the diploma and certificate programs; however, most have an additional year of general education requirements. Students will learn how to assist with examinations and minor surgery, administer patient injections, maintain medical documentation, prepare exam rooms and conduct proper sterilization techniques.

Associate's degree students will complete general education and elective courses as required by each institution, in addition to the medical assisting core requirements. These courses typically include the following:

  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Laboratory methods
  • Concepts related to health insurance
  • Clinical methods and techniques
  • Law and ethics in medicine

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the medical assisting field is expected to have faster than average job growth for the years 2012-2022. The BLS reported in May 2014 that medical assistants made a median annual salary of $29,960.

Continuing Education Information

Diploma and certificate degree programs provide the minimum amount of formal education in medical assisting. Students interested in further education can continue their studies with an associate degree in the field.

Certification Information

Individuals are eligible to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Certification Exam through the American Association of Medical Assistants if they have graduated from an accredited medical assisting diploma, certificate, or degree program. Recertification is required every five years. Those who have been employed in the field for a minimum of five years may advance their credential by sitting for the American Medical Technologists' certification exam.

Although not a requirement for all employment, certification demonstrates an individual's knowledge and skills in the field. The BLS notes that increased job prospects and pay may be in order for certified persons, more so over non-certified MAs (www.bls.gov).

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