Medical assistant certificate programs combine classroom-based learning with supervised lab experiences. The lab work can teach students how to take vital signs, assist with medical procedures and understand required medical guidelines. Some programs require students to pass prerequisite introductory courses before taking more advanced courses in the program. Programs of this type can be completed in as little as one year and are available through community colleges and vocational schools.
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Medical Assistant Certificate Program
Some medical assistant's certificate programs offer more laboratory and clinical practice time than others, which usually include an even focus on administrative skills and medical duties. These programs offer some variation in their course offerings as well; however, common courses typically include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Clinical laboratory procedures
- Medical billing and coding
- Business computer applications
- Medical laws and ethics
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the medical assisting field is one of the nation's fastest growing professions, with a projected growth rate of 23% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). Medical assistants will be needed in growing numbers due to an aging population and an industry in need of support staff. Medical assistants largely work in primary care facilities. Those with certification should see very promising job prospects.
Earnings for medical assistants vary by industry; however, the BLS reported that the mean salary for medical assistants was $31,910 as of 2015. Assistants in the top ten percent made $43,880 or more per year, while those in the bottom ten percent earned $22,040 or less annually.
Certification and Continuing Education Information
While not required, graduates of medical assistant certificate programs are eligible to take the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam, which is administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (www.aama-ntl.org). After passing the exam, certification remains valid for 60 months. Continuing education from a combination of administrative, clinical and general medical assisting courses is required in order to maintain the CMA certification.
These programs provide basic training to enter the career field, but some medical assistants may choose to broaden their scope of knowledge by gaining additional certification. Specialty certifications are available in phlebotomy, radiology and medical coding.
Medical assistant certificate programs can take one year or less to complete, and depending on the program, they may include both clinical and lecture-style courses. Graduates are eligible for voluntary certification and entry-level employment in the field. Medical assistants should enjoy good career opportunities, with job openings increasing 23% between 2014 and 2024.