What Kind of Degree Should a Medical Assistant Have? icon

What Kind of Degree Should a Medical Assistant Have?

| NurseJournal Staff

A lot of people are becoming interested in the field of medical assisting. Generally speaking, to become a medical assistant, you will need a certain amount of post-secondary education after getting your high school diploma. Usually, these courses are delivered at community colleges or vocation schools. And they take between one and two years to complete.

Certificate or Associate’s Degree?

If you want to become a medical assistant, there are a number of options available to you. First of all, you could obtain a certificate in medical assisting, which trains you to become a certified medical assistant (CMA). Generally speaking, it will only take one year to complete this training. An associate degree, on the other hand, usually takes two years to complete.

Both programs offer comprehensive education in relevant topics, such as physiology, anatomy, insurance processing, medical transcription, medical terminology and first aid. Different schools offer different curricula, often focusing on a specific field of medical assisting. With the associate’s degree in particular, it is likely that you will have to do an internship or externship, working in a health care facility such as a physician’s office. This is to demonstrate that you are capable of applying the skills and knowledge you have learned during your training.

Some states require you to pass an examination before you can become a medical assistant, after which you will become a CMA. In order for you to be able to take the CMA examination, your program must be accredited by either the ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools) or the CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs). They have set a number of policies and procedures to ensure medical assistant training delivers certain minimum quality standards.

Both the certificate and the associate’s degree are great opportunities to get started in the field of health care. However, you do have to understand the differences between the two before you decide which one to go for. The certificate is quicker and easier to obtain. However, if you hold an associate’s degree, you would be able to study towards a bachelor of science in nursing or some other more advanced degree in the future. Since everyone who works in the field of health care should be committed to their continuous professional education, this is an important consideration.

Additionally, holding an associate’s degree means you will be in greater demand. You will have an edge over the others who only have a certificate. Indeed, some jobs are not even open to someone who only has a certificate.

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What You Will Learn?

If you hold a certificate, you will be able to update patient records, file and code insurance forms, make appointments and referrals and request lab services. There will be a few clinical duties as well. For instance, you may have to collect specimens and you will take and record the vital signs of your patients for their records.

If you hold an associate’s degree, on the other hand, you will be able to do all of that and more. For instance, you could sign a prescription refill, remove stitches, draw blood, prepare and administer medication (while being supervised by a fully qualified person) and more. In many states, you will also be able to take x-rays and give injections.

Job Prospects and Salary

The exact salary you will earn as a medical assistant depends on a variety of factors, including where you work and how long you have been working in the field. Additionally, your geographical location and exact employer will play a role too. The final important factor is your degree or qualification. According to the <a href=”http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm”>U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics</a>, the median annual salary for a medical assistant is $28,300.

The future is bright for medical assistant. There is an expected significant growth in the number of jobs in the field of health care between now and 2022. Indeed, it seems that health care is the fastest growing industry in the country today.


  • http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm
  • http://healthcareers.about.com/od/healthcareerprofiles/p/MedAssist.htm
  • http://www.abhes.org/
  • http://www.caahep.org/

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