Medical assistants manage medical records and insurance forms, prepare patients for medical examinations and take medical histories. Programs in Medical Assistance can differ in emphasis, with some covering only administrative skills and others also discussing medical procedures and technology. Programs generally take two years to complete and are composed of classroom and clinical training in a medical office. Those who don't want to spend two years completing an associate degree program can instead opt for a one-year certificate program.
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Associate's Degree in Medical Assistance
An associate's degree program in medical assistance includes general education and professional training courses. Much of the coursework emphasizes the natural sciences and medical technology. Students spend the last several months working in a medical office, receiving practical training. Medical assistance course topics include the following:
- Medical terminology
- Laboratory and clinical procedures
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical office procedures
- Medical ethics
- Insurance and coding procedures
- Record keeping
- Billing practices
Career Outlook and Salary Info
The most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that employment growth for medical assistants was expected to increase by 23% for the years 2014 through 2024. This increase is due in part to the significant increase in the number of middle-aged and elderly patients expected during that decade. Salaries for medical assistants are highly variable, depending upon experience and location, but as of May 2015, the median annual salary was $30,590.
Graduates are prepared to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Certified medical assistants (CMAs) must re-certify every five years. In order to do so, they either must retake the certifying examination or complete 60 continuing education hours during the time. Continuing education hours must cover administrative, clinical, and general topics. CPR certification must also be kept current in order to maintain the CMA credential.
Medical assisting degrees are available for prospective students to study at the associate levels. Graduates are eligible to sit for certified exams in the field with the AAMA.