An aspiring oncology assistant may enroll in a medical assisting certificate program, which covers office skills, pharmacology, and medical office software. Some of these programs offer an oncology concentration. Certificate programs generally take 6-8 weeks to complete.
Associate's programs in oncology and radiation technology offer more complex medical training in the use of radiation equipment and patient care. As a result of the increased complexity, program duration increases to two years. While both programs require clinical experiences, they are much more extensive at the associate's level. Most associate's degree programs require several hundred hours of clinical lab work.
Medical Assistant Certificate
There are many schools that offer a medical assistant certificate with an oncology concentration, which gives students lab experience with equipment and report-writing specific to oncology. In some cases, the only educational prerequisite for enrolling in the certificate program is a certain grade point average. Holding a medical assistant certificate alone may be acceptable to begin a career as an oncology assistant, but many employers search through resumes to find applicants with actual field experience.
In medical assistant certificate programs, students take a high concentration of math, office skills and computer classes. The following are examples of common course topics:
- Clinical procedures
- Medical ethics
- Oncology diagnostics
- Medical software
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Associate's Degree in Oncology and Radiation Technology
Those who obtain an associate's degree in oncology and radiation technology are able to perform more complex duties than those simply holding certificates. Some of these job duties include providing direct cancer patient care, accompanying the oncologist during medical procedures and working in direct contact with radiation equipment. In some cases, the only requirements to enter this program are a certain GPA and exemplary placement test scores.
Along with the topics covered in the certificate program, such as medical ethics and pharmacology, students in the oncology associate's degree program complete coursework that is more advanced. Course topics may include the following:
- Radiation therapy
- Oncologic pathology
- Medical terms
- Oncologic principles
- Dosage calculation
- Psychology of cancer patients and cancer patient care
Popular Career Options
Although some employers in departments of oncology do not necessarily require applicants to hold a certificate in order to perform medical assistant duties, those with the credential are typically preferred. Graduates may find jobs as oncology assistants or oncology equipment operators.
In many cases, medical assistants may progress to higher-ranking positions through experience or additional training. For example, an oncology assistant who pursues nursing training may become an assistant nurse of oncology. Another option is to obtain the education necessary to teach medical assisting. If a student with a medical assistant certificate goes on to achieve an associate's degree in medical assisting, he or she becomes eligible for positions with more responsibility.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to reports made by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), medical assistant positions are ranked among those predicted to be the fastest-growing occupations between 2014 and 2024. According to 2015 reports, the mean annual wage for a medical assistant was $31,910. These reports also address the annual mean wages of medical assistants within different industries. Medical assistants working in general medical and surgical hospitals earned a mean salary of $33,140. Those employed in the offices of physicians earned $31,960, while assistants in the offices of other health practitioners earned $28,810, according to the BLS.
Upon completion of a certificate or associate's degree program in medical assisting or oncology, students will enter a job market expected to grow by 23% over the next decade. Students will receive a more in-depth and complex training curriculum as part of the associate's degree, and therefore can expect to have increased earnings potential as a result.