Career Information for a Degree or Certification in Medical Assisting

Sep 25, 2019

Medical assistants benefit from a postsecondary certificate or diploma because it confirms to potential employers that they have relevant training. Certificate programs can be completed in a year, while an associate's degree in a related field will take two years of study to complete.

Essential Information

Medical assistants have the opportunity to gain experience in a healthcare setting, working directly under the supervision of administrators and physicians. The tasks that they are responsible for range from administrative work to clinical duties, which may include laboratory testing.

While technically not required, a degree or certification in medical assisting demonstrates to potential employers a strong grasp of the skills required for the job. The number of opportunities in this field is expected to increase in the coming years.

Required Education High school diploma; though postsecondary degrees or certificates are beneficial
Other Requirements On-the-job training; voluntary certification available
Projected Job Outlook (2018-2028)* 23% growth (for all medical assistants)
Median Annual Wage (2018)* $33,610 (for medical assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment opportunities for medical assistants were expected to increase 23% from 2018-2028, which is much faster than average. The BLS cited population growth and healthcare industry expansion as some of the factors leading to the expected increase in jobs.

Salary Information

In May 2018, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for medical assistants was $33,610, while those in the top 10% earned $47,250 or more per year. Medical assistants working in physician's offices, the industry that the BLS cited as the largest employer, earned a mean annual wage of $34,320 in the same year.

Medical Assistant Educational Programs

Prospective medical assistants may consider programs that are accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Degree programs may be helpful or mandatory when seeking certification.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs may be completed in one year. These programs typically cover topics in both clinical and administrative medical assisting, including medical terminology and instrumentation. In addition to coursework and laboratory requirements, students must also typically undergo hands-on training through an externship or internship followed by a seminar. During this training, students are supervised as they work in a healthcare facility.

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degree programs are typically completed in two years and contain the same medical assisting coursework as a certificate, as well as general education courses. These courses may include topics in algebra, business and foundational sciences, like biology, anatomy and physiology. Similar to some certificate curricula, these programs often include coursework in basic computer skills.

Certification in Medical Assisting

Certification for medical assistants may be available through multiple organizations, including the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and the American Medical Technologists (AMT). Individuals seeking certification through the AAMA are required to complete an accredited postsecondary medical assistant program, while those seeking AMT certification may not be required to hold any postsecondary education. However, AMT applicants without postsecondary education are required to have at least five years of work experience for certification. Certification can allow for specialization in a medical assisting area like opthalmology or podiatry, or can demonstrate a level of competency to prospective employers.

Medical assistants perform administrative and clinical duties. They may process patients and paperwork, and may also be responsible for lab tests. A postsecondary certificate or associate's degree can prepare individuals to compete for jobs in this field, and voluntary certification may increase job prospects.

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