Medical Certificate, Diploma and Certification Program Overviews

Medical certificate programs can be found in phlebotomy and radiologic technology, among other fields. Medical diploma programs in medical assisting and diagnostic medical sonography are available as well.

Essential Information

Each medical certificate or diploma program consists of lectures, clinical courses and externship experiences. A phlebotomy certificate course typically lasts four to six months, during which time students learn to draw blood from veins for testing or treatment. Radiologic techs, also known as radiographers, take and develop x-rays, administer non-radioactive materials into a patient's blood stream for diagnostic purposes and must complete a two-year program.

Medical assistants perform administrative and general clinical tasks, for which a related diploma program takes approximately 18 months to complete. Diagnostic medical sonographers are professionals who use computer technology to produce images of the human body for diagnostic purposes, and must complete a one- to two-year diploma program.

All these programs require that students have a high school diploma, or equivalent, as well as take related college level classes such as biology, anatomy and medical terminology. Program graduates of these certificates or diplomas can become certified in their medical specialty through professional organizations.

Phlebotomist Certificate

Graduates of a phlebotomy certificate program are prepared for entry-level employment in labs, clinics, hospitals and blood banks.Students participate in hands-on lab work and at least one professional work experience. Medical topics include:

  • Health care legalities and ethics
  • Circulatory system
  • Blood collection
  • Specimen handling
  • Medical vocabulary

Radiologic Technologist (RT) Certificate

Working with physicians, radiologic technicians prepare patients and operate the diagnostic equipment.

Radiologic technician students learn general radiology procedures in the certificate programs and specialize in areas like mammography or computed tomography. Radiology certificate students must typically earn a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher to complete the program successfully. Topics of study include:

  • Medical safety procedures
  • Radiologic apparatus operations
  • Patient care and positioning
  • Disease and the body
  • Medical laws

Medical Assistant Diploma

The duties of a medical assistant depend on the size of the practice, office location and specialty. Typically, these duties may include venipuncture, vital sign assessment and medication distribution.

At the diploma level, medical assistant students earn professional work experience in clinics, doctors' offices and hospitals. Medical assistant courses cover:

  • Clinical terminology
  • First aid and CPR
  • Medical record keeping
  • Medical office management software
  • Accounting

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Diploma

Diagnostic medical sonographers are professionals who use computer imaging technology to assist physicians in diagnosing and monitoring patient conditions. They are trained to use ultrasound and other non-radiographic imaging tools. Diploma participants participate in seminars, lab work and clinical practica. Classes cover:

  • Strategies for taking ultrasounds
  • Diagnostic imaging of the abdomen
  • Doppler imaging techniques
  • Medical sonography for pregnant women
  • Interpreting scans

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

During the 2014-2024 time period, employment of medical and clinical laboratory technicians is predicted to rise 18%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( In 2015, phlebotomists across the U.S. earned a median yearly salary of $31,630, according to the BLS.

Employment of radiologic technologists and technicians is expected to rise 9% from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reported that in 2015, radiologic technologists made a median annual salary of $56,670.

In 2015, the median annual salary for a medical assistant in the U.S. was $30,590, according to the BLS. Employment of medical assistants was expected to climb 23%, much faster than the national average, over the 2014-2024 decade, according to BLS employment forecasts.

The 2015 median annual salary for diagnostic medical sonographers was $68,970, according to the BLS. Additionally, employment of medical sonographers was predicted to increase by 24% from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than average.

Continuing Education

While the majority of states require radiologic techs to obtain licensure, graduates of a certificate program can also earn voluntary certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. ARRT's medical certification requires applicants to have a high school diploma, complete an accredited radiologic technology program and pass the organization's exam. While certification is voluntary, many employers require radiologic technologists to be certified. Certification is renewable every two years, provided the individual completes 24 hours of continuing medical education.

Most states require phlebotomists to pass a practical, clinical test to obtain licensure. Voluntary certifications are also offered through the National Phlebotomy Association and the American Medical Technologists organization. Certification renewal is usually contingent on the completion of continuing education.

In order to become a certified medical assistant (CMA), an individual must have a high school diploma or a GED, have graduated from an accredited medical assistant program and pass the American Association of Medical Assistants' CMA examination. CMAs have to renew certification every five years by earning continuing education credits or by taking a recertification examination.

Graduates of an accredited diagnostic sonography program can sit for the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers exam. Upon successful completion of the test, applicants earn the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer credential, with specialty accreditations available in gynecological, abdominal, breast, fetal and brain sonography. To maintain certification, sonographers must meet continuing education requirements every three years and pay an annual fee.

There are various medical certificate, diploma and certification programs for individuals wanting to work in phlebotomy, radiology, medical assisting and diagnostic medical sonography. The programs vary in size, from four-month programs (phlebotomy certificate) to two-year programs (diagnostic medical sonographer diploma).

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