Medical Assisting Degree - Your Options, and How to Get One

A guide to the various choices you have for getting a medical assisting degree...

Actually, you don't really even need a degree to work in a doctor's office as a medical assistant. Many programs exist on many different educational and financial levels to help you get started in this field.

If you have a knack for working with people, love the feel of working in an office, and like medicine, medical assisting might be the job track for you. You can choose to get a certificate, diploma, or associate's degree to become a medical assistant.

All it takes is a little research into which method is right for you, and you'll be on your way!

Learning on the job

Different ways to get a  medical assisting degree

Many older medical assistants went straight to a doctor's office and got trained on the job to perform their duties. Some doctor's offices may still be willing to work with you this way, or they may be willing to hire you to work as a clerical assistant while you are getting your degree in school.

Learning on the job doesn't qualify you to have any paper degree, and it will make it more difficult for you to get medical assisting certification, which is becoming more important in getting a job in today's market.

Also, if you are trained on the job, you are trained for that office alone.

You'll face stiff competition at other offices and may lose out to other, more educated applicants.

Many of your supervisors and more experienced medical assistants will not have degrees in medical assisting, and will have learned on the job.

These professionals know more about what they are doing in their specific practice, and deserve respect for the professionalism and experience they have shown throughout their long career. Most of the time, they are the ones that will hire you and will be your direct supervisors.

Vocational schools

Vocational schools are a great, easy way to get a degree in medical assisting. These include vocational schools that are part of a high school curriculum, and post-secondary vocational schools, such as a trade school.

These programs typically last one year, but you can choose to attend these courses part-time to make them last 2 years. You'll get a diploma or a certificate from one of these programs, and then will be eligible to sit for national certification exams in the industry.

The downside of getting a diploma from a vocational school is that you won't earn any college credits that can eventually be transferred towards another degree. This does not allow you to further your schooling in the future.

However, vocational schools are easy to get into, plentiful, and generally cheaper than other options for getting your medical assisting degree.

Junior colleges

Different ways to get a  medical assisting degree

Junior college and community college programs generally last 2 years and result in an associate's degree in medical assisting. With this degree, you could easily take the credits you earned to pursue your medical assisting degree and use them to pursue a 4-year degree in something related, such as nursing.

Different schools have different requirements, and not all schools accept transfer credits from other schools. It pays to check what schools you are interested in before investing time and money.

You'll also learn more by getting an associate's degree from a college. You'll have college-level courses, and will also have to take courses that don't specifically relate to medical assisting, such as college English and college math. Some schools have requirements for sciences and humanities as well before they will award you an associate's degree.

These schools also cost a bit more, but financial aid is an opportunity you can look into from the government (if you qualify).

On the whole, you have more flexibility with an associate's degree over a simple certificate or diploma.

Degrees online

Different ways to get a  medical assisting degree

With the advent of the internet, it's now easier than ever to get a medical assisting degree.

You can get a certificate or an associate's degree online, depending on whether or not you have the time and money.

Some of the rules for vocational schools and junior colleges exist for online schools. They take the same amount of time and cost the same amount of money to get the same degrees.

The big bonus with online schools is that you can work at your own pace in your pyjamas. You don't have to go to a classroom to learn, but you have to be the type who is able to study on your own and able to pull information out of books easily.

You also have to be relatively computer-savvy to get your medical assisting degree online - you'll be required to post homework, take tests, and ask questions all through a computer interface.

See: what skills you'll need to successfully study medical assisting online.

Financial aid is available for online school, but be sure to check that the online school you choose is accredited. This means that the school is essentially licensed to teach medical assisting, and is recognized as an educational institution in the field.

Certifications post-graduation

Getting certifications after you graduate from medical assisting school isn't necessary, but they can help you get a job when other applicants have similar qualifications.

It does take extra time and money to sit for these exams, but some employers are requiring their medical assistants to be certified by one of the medical assisting overseeing boards.

One board that offers a general certification for medical assistants is the American Association of Medical Assistants. You can also become certified through the Association of Medical Technologists.

Either one will get you noticed by potential employers and set your application apart.

Each certification requires that you graduate from an accredited school of medical assisting, and can pass an exam on the skills you'll use in your job.

This is why many employers are interested in these tests. They provide a tool for employers to determine whether or not an applicant knows basic information about medical assisting.

Final verdict? It's certainly worth pursing a certification after you earn your medical assisting degree, if you want to be hired in a doctor's office.

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