Medical assistants have important responsibilities while working alongside physicians and other medical professionals. The education of medical assistants is crucial to their success in the job and for the safe, high-quality care provided to patients. Medical assistant programs provide the education needed in today’s fast-paced health care settings.
Advantages of Completing a Medical Assistant Program
There is a growing need for qualified medical assistants in the United States. Several sites, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) verifies that medical assistants are in high demand. The BLS lists the job growth outlook for medical assistants as much faster than average through 2029. The need is further demonstrated by the BLS indicating that there is an anticipated 139,200 new jobs being added through 2029, Similarly, the American Association of Medical Assistants expresses the expected accelerated growth in medical assistants over the next several years.
Top 5 Medical Assistant Programs
|1||Ogden-Weber Technical College||Ogden, Utah|
|2||Ogeechee Technical College||Ogden, Utah|
|3||Macomb Community College||Warren, Michigan|
|4||Houston Community College||Houston, Texas|
|5||Lake Land College||Mattoon, Illinois|
The anticipated job growth is just one of several advantages associated with medical assistant careers. Medical assistant programs that focus on the skills and knowledge needed in the profession likely help a student gain employment and to receive a well-paying job sooner than individuals that do not complete one of the accredited medical assistant programs.
Medical assistants that earn their diploma or degree from an accredited program also likely command a higher salary than other medical assistants, particularly when the student has a full understanding of the responsibilities of a medical assistant. The duties of medical assistants may vary somewhat from one employer or medical practice to another, but likely includes both clinical and administrative duties such as:
- Welcoming patients and completing medical records to prepare patients for their appointment
- Answering telephones
- Scheduling appointments and making arrangements for laboratory tests or medical procedures
- Taking medical histories and explaining procedures to patients
- Assisting physicians during patient exams
- Providing education to patients about their medications or special diets
- Drawing blood
Some other duties of the medical assistant may include removing sutures, changing dressings, and giving injections to patients.
These medical assistant programs prepare students for a career that may lead to a great future. The tuition is the current tuition rate, although schools sometimes change tuition. Tuition normally does not include additional costs such as supplies, books, materials or fees.
16 Best Medical Assistant Program
Ogden-Weber Technical College
Ogden, Utah is home to Ogden-Weber Technical College, where students have the opportunity to earn a certificate after completing the Medical Assisting program. The school charges such a low tuition rate that the cost of attending may be a deciding factor for some students seeking affordable medical assistant programs. The school tops our list of medical assistant programs.
Students gain the knowledge and skills to perform a variety of administrative and clinical duties in outpatient settings. Students will be prepared to work as multi-skilled professionals after graduation.
There is a required externship that students must complete prior to graduation.
Ogeechee Technical College
The Medical Assisting Program at Ogeechee Tech prepares students for employment in today’s medical offices. The program provides opportunities which introduce, develop, and reinforce academic and occupational knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for job acquisition, retention, and advancement. Additionally, the program provides opportunities to upgrade present knowledge and skills or to retrain in the areas of medical assisting. Graduates of the program receive a Medical Assisting diploma and are required to sit for the national AAMA certification examination. If your calling is to be in an industry centered around maintaining patient care, excelling in clinical and administrative responsibilities, and overcoming new challenges each day, then Medical Assisting at OTC is the program for you.
Macomb Community College
Graduate from the Macomb Community College Medical Assistant program and start your new career, change careers or take your career to the next level. Learn anatomy and physiology, medical office procedures, laboratory procedures and other skills required for medical assistants to succeed in their career.
Houston Community College
Houston Community College offers several options for completing a medical assistant program. The first option is the Medical Assistant – Medical Scribe – Level 1 certificate. This program prepares students to enter information into an electronic medical record at the direction of a physician or a practitioner. This allows for completing the records in real-time, allowing the physician to focus more time on patient care.
The Medial Assistant – Specialization – Certificate Level 2 is a program that trains students to serve as multi-skilled technicians in ambulatory health care delivery systems. Students gain more advanced skills in this program including 12-lead electrocardiography, stress testing, phlebotomy, and medication administration, along with other skills. The Allied Health – Medical Assistant – Specialization AAS program focuses on the highest level of skills, training students to advance their career options previously gained in a certificate program.
Lake Land College
Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois offers a one-year Medical Assistant certificate or a two-year Associate in Applied Science degree for students who want to gain a competitive edge when entering the job market. Students learn patient care, phlebotomy, injections, scheduling, billing and a variety of office procedures.
Students have their choice of completing program requirements in the classroom or through a hybrid format, which means that students complete some courses in the classroom and some courses online.
Community College of Baltimore County
The Medical Assisting program at the Community College of Baltimore County prepares students for positions working in medical offices. Students receive instruction in the basic core set of skills required for working as a medical assistant when they are not prepared to enter into a full degree program. Completing the medical assisting program at the school does not restrict the student from applying to complete a medical assistant degree or degree in a related field in the future.
The college understands the critical need for well-trained medical assistants. This program is designated as a Health Workforce Shortage Program.
Portland Community College
Students that enroll in the one-year Medical Assisting program at Portland Community College gain the knowledge required for medical assistants to become successful in their field. Students develop their skills in clinical procedures, administrative procedures, communication, data collection and other skills.
There are many other duties that the school points out are essential to making the medical assistant an important part of a medical team, including gathering patient data, obtaining and processing specimens, and utilizing electronic medical records systems. Students also learn the soft skills that are important for success as a medical assistant.
Sinclair College, located in Downtown Dayton, Ohio, offers both short-term and long-term medical assistant technical certificates, “housed within the Medical Assistant technology program.” The short-term options include a 22-credit-hour certificate Reimbursement Analyst program, and a 16-hour Patient Access and Scheduling Coordinator certificate.
The Medical Assistant program is a one-year technical certificate option, consisting of 37 credit hours. The program focuses on developing the competencies, professional behaviors and attitudes that are consistent with the delivery of safe, ethical, compassionate and legal patient care. Students have the option to decide whether they want to obtain certification. Some students continue their education and complete the two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Medical Assistant Technology.
Ivy Tech Community College
vy Tech Community College offers two options for completing a medical assistant program. The Medical Assisting program at the school gives students the option of completing the Technical Certificate program, consisting of 33 credit hours of study. The Associate of Applied Science degree in Medical Assisting is a four-semester program consisting of 60 credit hours of instruction.
Some topics covered in the curriculum includes medical terminology, medical assisting laboratory techniques, pharmacology, identifying body systems, and performing various clinical duties.
Bluegrass Community & Technical College
Enroll at Bluegrass Community & Technical College and learn to work alongside physicians and fulfill your goal of working in healthcare. The school prepares students to be a vital liaison between physician and patient and to perform various clinical and administrative duties.
The school offers both a certificate program and an associate’s degree program in medical assisting.
Henderson Community College
The Henderson Community College Medical Assisting program features the opportunity for students to gain the skills and knowledge to work as entry level medical assistants in the cognitive, psychomotor, and behavior learning domains. Students learn the importance of being able to work in a fast-paced environment as they perform their day-to-day duties and other required duties under supervision. Perform a long list of duties, including electrocardiograms, administer injections and medications and learn to process insurance claims
The student has the option of completing all course requirements in the traditional classroom environment, or to complete some of the course online.
Harrisburg Area Community College
Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) students have the option of completing course requirements for the Medical Assistant Credit Certificate program during the day or during evening classes. Students develop knowledge and skills that are required of qualified medical assistants, and also complete an externship.
Students that complete the 37 credits of the program are required to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam prior to graduation.
Niagara County Community College
Niagara County Community College offers an Associate of Applied Science Medical Assistant degree program. The program trains students to perform the duties required of medical assistants, to become quality educated entry level professionals. One way that the school accomplishes this is to cross-train students to be prepared in clinical knowledge and skills and administrative knowledge and skills.
Students complete a practicum in an ambulatory setting during the last semester of their program.
LaGuardia Community College
Enroll at LaGuardia Community College and advance your career when you complete the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant program. Become nationally certified after completing the courses and taking the exam.
Learn new skills and enhance your existing ones as you progress through the program. Take vital signs, perform phlebotomy, prepare patients for medical procedures and other duties under physician supervision.
University of Alaska Anchorage
The University of Alaska Anchorage provides students with the option of completing a 30-credit Certified Medical Assistant Preparation Certificate or an Associate of Applied Science degree for students that want to increase their knowledge and maximize their career options. Students that complete the certificate program can follow an articulated pathway leading to the associate’s degree program without loss of credit.
The school prepares students for their career with a curriculum that focuses on basic medical assisting courses. The program also features a six-week clinical externship. Graduates are eligible to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam.
The school boasts a 100 percent graduate satisfaction score.
Greenville Technical College
The Greenville Technical College Medical Assistant program prepares students to work in ambulatory care settings and to perform a variety of clinical, laboratory, and administrative duties. The curriculum at the Greenville, South Carolina school is designed to maximize the knowledge that students have and to help students develop the skills necessary for success as a medical assistant.
The program also includes hands-on experiences and a practicum experience in a physician’s office.
Qualifying as a Medical Assistant in the U.S.
The first step is to enroll in an accredited medical assistant program to earn either a medical assistant diploma or certificate. There are a variety of medical assistant programs available in the U.S. They range from only a few days to two years, depending on what type of diploma or certificate you pursue. With the types of medical assistant programs that are roughly two years in duration, you are likely to be pursuing or earning an associate’s degree. Whereas with those programs that are of a few months or shorter durations you will earn a certificate at the end.
While most states in the U.S. don’t have any formal education requirements for becoming a medical assistant most employers in the healthcare field prefer to hire someone who has completed some sort of medical assistant training program. As mentioned, most medical assistant training programs are either two-year associate degree programs or one-year (or sometimes less) Certificate medical assistant training programs.
Where Can I Study to Be a Medical Assistant?
There are a variety of types of educational institutions where one may find and can attend a medical assistant program. These include:
When/Where to Apply?
As with so many things, you must do your research well in advance of applying to any actual schools and programs. Start with researching schools in your area that offer medical assistant programs. Once you have a list of these, you are ready to delve into the curriculum that they have available, as well as fees and any prerequisites for enrollment. Talk with admissions counselors and reach out, if possible, to current students or alumni.
Under current conditions with a global pandemic still ongoing for almost a year now, an online Medical Assistant Program combined with a hands-on work training component might be the most prudent option.
Students should also decide what type of medical assistant program they prefer to enroll in. As mentioned, there are both certificate and associate programs available. A certificate program takes less time to complete and might be cheaper, but an associate program may offer a more well-rounded educational program that may be preferable to some employers. Research both the types of programs available in your area as well as the current job market and do a self-analysis of your own goals, strengths, weaknesses, etc., when making up your mind which course of study to pursue and where to pursue it.
The nature of the job is such that you spend most of your day interacting with other people, including patients, their families, caregivers, insurance company employees, doctors, nurses, both in person and over the phone. So, best know that going in, and if you prefer a more solitary working environment, perhaps this is not the job for you.
The Typical Medical Assistant Training Program
To apply for most medical assistant programs, you need to have a high school diploma or GED. Curriculums vary by school, but they typically consist of administrative and clinical training to ensure you can properly handle both aspects of the job effectively. Some of the typical areas that a student might expect to receive instruction in include:
- Medical Bookkeeping
- First Aid
- Insurance Processing
- Instruction in certain types of medical software and other computer training
- Medical Transcription
Courses are offered now both on a full-time and part-time basis, in addition to 100% in person, Online (for the classwork portion though students are still required to do some sort of in-person work placement or internship), and a combination of in-person and online instruction.
Types of Medical Assistant Certifications
The Institute for Credentialing Excellence recognizes 5 different types of Medical Assistant certifications (though there are many more out there). They are as follows:
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
- Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
To qualify as a certified medical assistant (CMA), you need to have graduated from an accredited medical assistant program, completing a practicum totaling at least 160 hours, and you must pass a 200-question exam. Certification costs anywhere from $125-150 depending on your location and must be renewed every 60 months.
To qualify as a registered medical assistant (RMA)you need to be currently in or have graduated from an accredited medical assistant program and passed a 210-question exam. Certification costs anywhere from $100-120 depending on your location and must be renewed every three years.
To qualify as a national certified medical assistant (NCMA) you need to be currently in or have graduated from an NCCT accredited medical assistant program OR have the equivalent work experience and passed a 150-question exam. Certification costs anywhere from $90 to 135, depending on your location, and must be renewed every year.
To qualify as a certified clinical medical sssistant (CCMA) you need to have completed a clinical medical assisting program within the past five years and passed a 200-question exam. Certification costs anywhere from $149-159 depending on your location and must be renewed every two years.
To qualify as a certified medical sdministrative sssistant (CMAA) you need to have completed a clinical medical administrative assisting program within the past five years and passed a 100-question exam. Certification costs anywhere from $105-159 depending on your location and must be renewed every two years.
For a complete list of requirements, please check the websites of the appropriate certifying bodies.
Specialty Certifications for Medical Assistants
Some medical assistants work in areas that require higher amounts of specialization. Two of the most common specialties for MAs are ophthalmology and podiatry, medical care of the eyes and feet, respectively. Medical assistants who work in these areas and want proof of their specialized skills may choose to obtain specialty certification.
How to Apply to a Medical Assistant Program
For a more comprehensive course of study in the field of Medical Assistance, you may want to consider an Associate Degree rather than a certificate program. While one can certainly find a job in medical assisting with a medical assistant program, an associate degree may be preferable for providing more options for employment by providing a wider range of coursework that can also be put towards a Bachelor’s degree in the future. The degree is typically called an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assisting or an Associate of Applied Science in Health Science with a specialty in Medical Assisting.
In a certificate program, the curriculum focuses on what you need to know to be a successful medical assistant. As a result, one can typically graduate from a certificate Medical Assistant Program in twelve months or less. Whereas in an Associate degree program, there are additional classes in general liberal arts classes such as Math, English, Speech, Sociology, and Psychology that give you a broader perspective and prepare you for further educational opportunities that you may wish to pursue further down the road.
Making The Choice
When trying to decide between pursuing a certificate or an associate’s degree in medical assisting, there are various factors that you will want to consider including:
- Cost: Not just in terms of tuition but in terms of time – Certificate programs typically last a year or less whereas an Associate degree takes two years
- What are Your Career Goals: (short, medium, and long-term)? Are you planning to advance in the healthcare field and/or return to school to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the future?
- Location: What are the job prospects for graduates of certificate programs in your area? Do those with associate’s degrees in medical assisting fair better?
Advantages of Opting for an Associate’s Degree Medical Assistant Program
The advantages of enrolling in an Associate Degree Medical Assistant Program include:
A potentially broader range of employment opportunities because of your expanded education.
More opportunities for professional advancement and/or opportunities to pursue additional specialized areas of study in the medical assistant field.
You’ll have an educational foundation on which you can build, should you decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree in areas such as healthcare administration, nursing, or healthcare information technology.
Benefits of a Career as a Medical Assistant
Salaries generally vary according to location and type of workplace. Medical assistants who work for outpatient care centers and hospitals earn more than medical assistants who work in doctors’ offices. If you have an Associate’s degree, you may be qualified to assume a wider range of job responsibilities owing to your broader educational background which can mean a higher salary as well.
On average, medical assistants in the U.S. make $35,720 per year or $17.17 per hour, which varies with experience and location as well, as the average starting wage is just under $15/hour. At present, the state with the highest mean salary for Medical Assistants is Alaska at $45,630/year, followed by D.C. ($44,530/year) and Washington state ($43,760/year). The lowest-paid are West Virginia ($28,160/year), Alabama ($28,460/year), and Louisiana ($28,740).
When researching cities and their surrounding areas, note the cost of living in those areas, especially housing. It may make sense to make less money in a place where your dollar goes further and the pace of life is more agreeable.
The extra courses needed to complete an associate’s degree in medical assisting also can provide you with a more varied skill set than a certificate program. That is because as mentioned, in addition to basic clinical and administrative medical assisting courses, students take additional courses of a more liberal arts studies bent that are designed to help the student develop additional skills such as:
- Strong oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills
- Critical thinking skills for better handling of issues related to effective patient care
- Social skills that will enable students to better deal with patients from a variety of backgrounds and cultures
- Business skills for gathering and updating data using a wide range of data management systems
Simply stated, an associate’s degree in medical assisting will enable graduates to handle all the duties of a certification graduate, and more.
Financing Your Medical Assistant Program
As mentioned, most medical assistant programs are offered through vocational and technical schools as well as community colleges. More than 40% of student undergraduates in the United States are currently enrolled in community colleges.
You can save a lot of money by choosing a community college over a traditional four-year university. The average cost of tuition at a four-year college is approximately $22,000 per academic year, while yearly tuition at a community college average around $8,000 annually for programs that can be completed in a year or two.
However, even with the savings you can get by attending a community college, many students still need financial assistance to pay tuition. Grants and scholarships can provide some much-needed assistance, but do not always cover everything. College loans are one way to help with funding one’s education, and they are not just available to students attending a four-year college, notwithstanding misinformation to the contrary. There are college loan programs to fit every type of student if you know where to look.
Federal Student Loans for Community College
To get a federal student loan to attend college, you must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. To learn more about applying for and qualifying for aid via this method please click here.
The following student loans are offered through the Federal Direct Loan Program and are available to community college students, as well as students attending a traditional 4-year college or university.
- The Federal Direct Subsidized Loan: Available to undergraduate students who can demonstrate the required financial need. Eligible students must be enrolled at least part-time at an accredited community college or university. The school determines the loan amount. Students who receive a Federal Direct Subsidized Loan will have their interest paid by the U.S. Department of Education while attending school and for a six-month grace period after they graduate.
- The Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan: No requirement to demonstrate financial need. The student’s college determines the loan amount, and it cannot be more than the cost of tuition. Unlike the subsidized loan, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are responsible for any accrued interest. Students do not need to make any loan payments while they attend school but will be responsible for both the principal amount of the loan and the interest accumulated after they graduate or leave school.
- The Federal Direct PLUS Loan: Available to the parents or guardians of undergraduate students. This program allows the parents of undergraduate students to contribute to their child’s education fund by securing a low-interest government loan. Parents may borrow up to the total cost of the student’s tuition, less any financial aid the student has already received. Loans are approved according to credit history.
- The Federal Perkins Loan: Offered through participating community colleges and universities. The Perkins loan provides low-interest loans to students with extreme financial need. The maximum loan amount for undergrads is $5,500 at 5% interest. Students should contact their school’s office of financial aid to see if the college participates in the program. Loan approval is subject to the student’s financial need, and the availability of funds.
There are also state-based and private loans available to those who need financial assistance but do not fit the definition of extreme need.
Private student loans for community college are offered by a variety of banks and commercial lending institutions. Unlike federal and state loans, private loans are based on your credit score and charge higher rates of interest as well as have less relaxed repayment terms
Below is a list of the more prominent national private lenders who offer community college loans:
Other Career Options Available for Medical Assistants Program Graduates
People who have a medical assistant diploma or associate’s degree should note the other career paths open to them. Some may pay more than a Medical Assistant, while others might pay less (but offer more flexible scheduling or work/life balance). Below are just a few of these alternate career paths:
- Medical Office Assistant: MOAs are like office managers for medical practices, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. They mostly handle duties like scheduling, billing, accounting, and filing insurance claims. These duties are covered as part of most Medical Assistant study programs, so students who have graduated will be ready to step right into this particular role. Medical office assistants make an average salary of $31,108 per year.
- EKG Technician: Electrocardiograph techs assist with helping doctors identify cardiovascular conditions in patients. This is done by performing various diagnostic tests that deploy specialized equipment such as stress testing, electrocardiograms, and telemetry. EKG technicians typically work in hospitals or clinics, dealing with many different types of patients. Some other duties they may be asked to perform include educating patients, monitoring patients’ blood pressure, and recording information.
EKG technicians receive most of their training on the job; however, most employers prefer one who has a healthcare background, which gives certified medical assistants a leg up in terms of breaking into this field. The training takes on average four to six weeks to complete, and EKG technicians in the U.S. make an average salary of $57,250/year.
- Phlebotomy Technician: Phlebotomy technicians draw blood from patients or donors and prepare blood samples for testing. They are also responsible for preparing and maintaining lab equipment, updating patient records, and explaining procedures to patients. They might work in labs, clinics, hospitals, or any other facilities where blood is drawn.
While medical assistant programs will include a course or courses in basic phlebotomy, some employers might require additional certification, which should be easy for medical assistant program graduates to achieve. This job field is expected to experience a 23% growth between now and 2028, with an average annual salary of $30,191.
- Health Unit Clerk: These are also known as ward clerks and their job involves providing administrative and clerical support to specific health units in hospital-like surgical wards, ICUs, pediatrics, and so on. Their primary responsibility is to ensure that all medical records, laboratory reports, and patient records are filed and correctly stored. While there are no specific education or certification requirements necessary to enter this field, you will need a working knowledge of medical terminology and procedures. Hospital Unit Clerks in the U.S. make an average of $34,522 per year.
- Surgical Technician: Surgical technicians work alongside surgeons and medical professionals in hospitals and operating rooms. They are responsible for preparing the operating room, the surgical equipment, and the patients in advance, but their most important function is to assist surgeons in the operating room by handing off surgical equipment as well as cleaning up the OR afterward.
- To become a surgical technician, you must complete a specialized program and exam before becoming certified through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). Your medical assistant program studies can be of great help in completing the required course and exam. Surgical Technicians in the U.S. earn an average of $49,040/year.
- Medical Claims Examiner: Medical claims examiners work with medical insurance customers to determine coverage and review insurance claims while ensuring that all customer information is correct and requirements are met before approving a claim. Depending on the exam results, they may also be responsible for payment or further investigation into an insurance claim.
- While, technically, you only need a high school diploma to become a medical claims examiner, most employers require a degree or background related to the medical field. The type of knowledge you gain through earning your medical assisting certification helps you stand out when applying for this type of job, which at an average salary of $67,540 per annum is also one of the better-paying jobs available out there for graduates of Medical Assistant Programs.
- Public Health Inspector: Another high-paying (average salary $74,940 per year) career path open to medical assistant program graduates is a Public Health Inspector. These are members of government health departments that monitor business and public facilities. They enforce local and state health regulations that pertain to such things as the sanitation of hotels, food service establishments, housing, swimming facilities, and healthcare facilities.
Public health inspectors are required to earn an associate’s degree in natural sciences or health. While certification is not required, it may be the preference of some employers. Depending on the medical assistant program you completed, some of your coursework might be transferable to an associate’s degree in health.
Completion of a medical assistant program opens up a wide array of job opportunities. For some jobs in the healthcare field, your education and training will set you up to easily transition to those roles without any additional requirements. For others, your medical assisting certification is the foundation for the specialized training and examinations those jobs require. Good Luck!