Clinical Assistant Programs by Degree Program Level

Clinical assistants, also called medical assistants or clinical medical assistants, work alongside physicians. Those interested in the field can pursue a clinical assistant certificate or a medical assistant associate degree.

Essential Information

Clinical assistant certificate programs prepare students to assist physicians with a variety of clinical procedures, and take a few weeks to complete. Meanwhile, a 2-year medical assistant associate degree program is ideal for those who wish to become clinical assistants in a variety of health care settings. These programs include lab and clinical work and require a high school diploma or GED.


Certificate Programs in Clinical Assistance

Topics in a clinical assistance certificate programs include medical law and ethics, anatomy and physiology, patient communications, medical terminology, and medical office procedures. Students are prepared to work as entry-level clinical medical assistants in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies, clinics, and home health agencies.

Students learn how to assist physicians with a variety of clinical procedures, including administering medication, recording vital signs, processing blood specimens, obtaining case histories, sterilizing medical instruments, and performing basic laboratory tests. A number of programs prepare aspiring clinical assistants for certification from the National Health Care Association or the American Medical Technologists (AMT).

Clinical assistant programs, which cover medical and office skills, combine didactic lessons with hands-on instruction. Common coursework includes:

  • Medical terminology
  • Human anatomy
  • Phlebotomy
  • Human diseases
  • Medical assisting laboratory techniques
  • Introductory clinical skills

Associate Degree in Clinical Assistance

While additional education would be necessary, an associate degree in medical assistance is also a solid foundation for a career in nursing. Students are trained in taking and recording vital signs, giving injections, sterilizing medical supplies, collecting specimens, documenting patient histories, and assisting in medical exams. Advanced training may cover radiology, the use of X-ray equipment, and how to perform microbiological testing.

Medical assistant programs at this level also provide extensive instruction in medical office procedures, including coding and billing. In most cases, students must complete extensive hands-on clinical practice under direct supervision of health care professionals. A number of programs prepare students for certification through the AMT or AAMA (American Association of Medical Assistants). To enroll, prospective students are often required to complete a physical and receive routine immunizations.

Combining classroom and clinical instruction, the curriculum within a medical assistant associate degree program may cover:

  • Radiography
  • Health care systems
  • Office technology
  • Human diseases
  • Records management
  • EKG and CPR

Popular Career Options

Graduates may seek positions immediately in public, private and government centers that administer health care to the public. Entry-level career options include:

  • Clinical assistant
  • Lab assistant
  • Medical records clerk
  • Nursing assistant
  • Medical office secretary
  • Medical receptionist

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment outlook for medical assistants is expected to increase by 23% from 2014-2024, making it one of the fastest growing occupations. While earnings vary by experience and location, the median annual salary for medical assistants was $30,590 in May 2015.

Aspiring medical assistants can pursue certificate programs that take a few weeks to complete and 2-year associate degree programs. Graduates can pursue successful careers as clinical assistants, lab assistants, and more.


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