Medical assistants apply clinical and clerical skills to keep doctors' offices, clinics, and hospitals running smoothly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects more new jobs in the healthcare sector than any other economic sector between 2019-2029. As the needs of an aging population increase demand for healthcare services across the board, medical assisting offers many opportunities.
Primarily employed in outpatient and ambulatory care settings, medical assistants garner a median annual salary of $34,800. Graduates with a medical assistant degree can look forward to a robust job market, with the BLS projecting 19% job growth between 2019-2029.
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Although not always required, an associate medical assistant degree gives candidates a competitive edge in the job market. Medical assistant degrees give graduates the administrative skills, clinical competencies, and medical knowledge needed to earn certification and secure employment in this dynamic field.
What can you do as a medical assistant?
Medical assistants support doctors, nurses, and office staff in various healthcare settings. They sometimes specialize in clinical or administrative functions, or in particular medical fields.
How many hours does it take to become a medical assistant?
Associate medical assistant degrees typically require 60-68 credits. To earn accreditation, programs must also require at least 160 supervised clinical hours.
Is a medical assistant the same as a CNA?
CNAs focus exclusively on patient care, and they typically need a license to practice. Most states do not require licensure for medical assistants, who perform both clerical and medical duties.
How much do you make as a medical assistant?
Medical assistants earn a median salary of $34,800 per year, according to the BLS. Factors such as location and experience can affect compensation.
Best Online Medical Assistant Associate Degree Programs 2021
A medical assistant degree prepares graduates to sit for certification exams and apply for entry-level positions. Offered at certificate and associate levels, these programs build foundational medical knowledge. They also provide practical training in administrative and clinical practices. Both certificates and associate degrees may qualify graduates for employment, but associate programs provide more comprehensive professional preparation.
An associate medical assistant degree with a clinical focus teaches students how to measure vital signs, administer medications, and perform laboratory tests. Administratively focused medical office assistant and medical administrative assistant programs provide more instruction in administrative office procedures.
Why Get a Medical Assistant Degree?
A medical assistant associate degree helps aspiring professionals build career-relevant skills, earn certification, and present an attractive resume. It also provides a foundation for further study.
- Route to Certification
- Many employers prefer to hire certified medical assistants. Completing an accredited medical assistant program may fulfill the educational requirements to sit for certification exams.
- Educational Advancement
- An online medical assistant degree can provide transferable credits toward a bachelor's degree in health sciences or healthcare administration. Many schools maintain articulation agreements that streamline the transfer process.
- Professional Skill Development
- Medical assistant programs develop clinical competencies and ensure graduates' familiarity with medical office procedures, reducing the need for on-the-job training.
- Hands-On Training
- Externships and practicum experiences allow students to apply classroom learning to real-life work situations. Online medical assistant degree candidates can often complete these experiences locally.
- Increased Marketability
- A high school or GED diploma is the minimum educational requirement for the profession. However, an associate degree helps job candidates stand out in the job market.
Although not formally required for admission, high school courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy, and business can help students prepare for a college medical assistant program.
Frequently offered through community colleges that maintain open admission policies, an associate medical assistant degree usually maintains minimal admission criteria. Acceptance to the college may require only a high school or GED diploma, regardless of test scores, grades, or recommendations.
Once admitted to the college, students must usually meet certain standards to enter medical assistant programs. They generally need to complete prerequisite coursework, such as mathematics, English, and introductory health science classes. Program admission requirements may also include placement testing, CPR certification, and background checks.
Many programs require a minimum GPA to begin the program and to graduate. Associate medical assistant degree candidates complete general education requirements as well as business and medical coursework. Clinical placement experiences totaling at least 160 hours typically culminate these programs.
Professional Organizations for Medical Assistant Students
Joining a professional organization can help students planning a career in medical assisting connect with established professionals and deepen their understanding of the field. These organizations often provide networking opportunities through national conventions, local chapters, and online forums. Members also benefit from career guidance and continuing education resources. Many organizations offer discounted student membership rates.
The only professional association solely dedicated to medical assisting, the AAMA administers the certified medical assistant credential. Members gain access to publications, legal resources, and local and national events. Student-focused volunteer groups provide opportunities for leadership experience. Student members must be attending an accredited medical assistant program.
AMT provides various certifications for allied health professionals, including the registered medical assistant certification. Members gain access to AMT's state and national meetings, job board, and online communities. AMT-certified professionals automatically qualify for membership.
Many college students, including those pursuing an online medical assistant degree, qualify for financial aid. Financial aid packages may include loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs. Among the most desirable forms of aid, scholarships do not require repayment. Our list highlights a few scholarships that cater to aspiring medical assistants.
Who Can Apply: The AMT scholarship program supports students pursuing careers in one of the organization's certification areas. Applicants must be recent high school graduates, graduating seniors, or AMT members. They must also attend an accredited medical technology, phlebotomy, dental assistant, or medical assistant program. Application materials include transcripts, essays, and recommendation letters.
Amount: $1,500 - $2,500
Who Can Apply: The AAMA sponsors the scholarship for students enrolled in medical assisting programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Program directors must nominate candidates. Recipients need a minimum 3.0 GPA. In addition to scholarship funds, the award includes a one-year AAMA membership.
Who Can Apply: Dedicated to promoting wellness in Black communities, the Mae and Mary Legacy Foundation awards the scholarship to Black graduating seniors pursuing careers in healthcare. Applicants must submit transcripts, a cover letter, a resume, a personal essay, and proof of acceptance into a two-year or four-year healthcare-related program.
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