According to the statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 686,000 medical assistants were working in the United States during the calendar year of 2020. If you are interested in becoming a medical assistant in this fast-growing medical support field, consider researching and finding out the answers to the following questions.
- What is a medical assistant associate degree?
- Are there medical assistant associate degree schools that offer online degrees?
- Is medical assistant an associates degree or a certificate program?
Those individuals who have a career objective to enter the medical assistant field generally pursue a two-year associates degree either in a traditional classroom or through a distance learning program.
Accreditation for Medical Assistant Programs
Oversight agencies evaluate universities, colleges, and professional schools on several levels. This official assessment of a program or a school is known as accreditation.
Accreditation is simply the process by which a recognized oversight agency evaluates the program/school against a set of pre-determined academic and educational standards. If the school or the program meets the accreditation criteria, the school is awarded accreditation.
The federal government uses regional offices throughout the country to evaluate programs for content and merit. These agencies are part of the federal government’s US Department of Education (USDE). A student benefits from choosing to attend a medical assistant program that has received accreditation from an oversight authority. Here are the major benefits –
- Financial aid may only be available for accredited assistant medical programs; therefore, it is important to determine if the financial aid you might need will be available for your chosen program.
- If students need to transfer in the middle of an academic program, the credit units that have been earned – to date – will be likely be considered for credit when applying for a transfer to a new medical assistant program.
In the world of medical assisting, most individuals choose to earn –
- The AAMA – the American Association of Medical Assistants awards a Certified Medical Assistant certification. This is available after a student has completed an accredited medical assistant associate degree program.
- A Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certification that is granted by the AMT – the American Medical Technologists. To earn a Registered Medical Assistant credential, certification seekers must have a minimum of five years of professional experience.
However, to take the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification exam offered by the AAMA, the certification seeker must have completed a medical assisting program accredited by either of the following accreditation agencies –
- The ABHES – the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) was established in 1964 but reformed in 1974 to its current type of organization. The United States Secretary of Education recognizes the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools among its healthcare education accreditation agencies.
- The CAAHEP – the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs – the CAAHEP is a non-profit agency originally founded in 1994 and is currently recognized by the government’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA.)
Types of Medical Assistant Degrees
Medical assistants tend to enter the medical assisting, having completed a post-secondary education program. This is the preferable path to employment because most employers prefer to hire medical assistants who have successfully completed a medical assisting program that has been appropriately accredited. Before enrolling in a medical assistant degree program, consider investigating programs and schools to answer these questions –
- Is there a medical assistant associate degree program near me that I can attend?
- Can I earn a medical assistant associate degree online instead of attending classes on campus?
- Are there specific programs that offer an associate degree in medical assistant online that are within my tuition budget?
- Is an online medical assistant associate degree the same degrees as an associates degree for medical assistant program offered on-campus?
- Which degree program can be completed fastest – a medical assistant associates degree online or a medical assistant associates degree earned in a traditional classroom?
Those who hold an associate degree in medical assistant generally obtain work in several types of medical assistant jobs. Many students who complete an online associates degree in medical assistant choose a medical assisting career in one of these types of programs –
- An online medical assistant associate degree followed by the obtaining of a CMA certification to specialize in administrative medical assisting.
- An online associates degree in medical assistant followed by the obtaining of an RMA (Registered Medical Assistant) certification to emphasize a professional’s credibility.
- An associate degree in medical assistant followed by a Clinical Medical Assistant Certification (CMAC) that prepares and trains medical assistant professionals to work on equipment such as an EEG machine or an EKG machine.
It is noted that graduates of an online medical assistant associate degree, or an on-campus associates degree for medical assistant program, will likely need to complete some on-the-job training. The exact nature and depth of training will be contingent upon the medical assistant job and the medical assistant’s employer.
Professional Licenses & Medical Assistant Certification Programs
As you continue to research medical assistant certification programs, focus on these goals and inquires regarding medical assistant certification programs and professionals’ licenses –
- Learn how to get medical assistant certification online
- Learn how to get a certification for medical assistant in a local community college?
- What is a medical assistant certification salary per year?
- Learn how to get a medical assistant certification to perform specific medical assisting duties using technological equipment?
- What can I do with a clinical medical assistant certification when I have completed the program?
- Are there certification programs for medical assistants that are free or that offer students financial aid?
- What is the certified medical assistant with associates degree salary when graduating and five years after graduation?
There are certain medical assistant associate degree jobs that are available without a certification requirement. However, a medical assistant certification is required for those medical assistants who perform specific duties. Here are a few examples of laws that require certification for a medical assistant in these instances –
- A certification for a medical assistant who is a phlebotomist.
- A certification for a medical assistant who uses x-ray equipment.
It is also a great idea to obtain certification as a medical assistant by enrolling in an online medical assistant certification program. Medical assistant credentialing is an important differential that helps set medical assisting professionals apart from their peers. Voluntary national certification for a medical assistant is an effective way to gain the knowledge and expertise to become a top-performing medical professional – earning near or at the top of the medical assistant salary range.
The Certified Medical Assistant Credential (CMA)
The CMA certification as a medical assistant is offered by the AAMA – the American Association of Medical Assistants. Many employers prefer to hire someone with medical assistant online certification because of the potential risks inherent in the medical profession. Should something happen, an employer can show that he or she exercised reasonable judgment by requiring certification as a medical assistant.
To learn how to get medical assistant certification for a CMA certification for medical assistant online, a candidate must meet these online medical assistant certification requirements –
- Complete a medical assistant certification program that is accredited by the ABHES – Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or the CAAHEP – the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
- Pass the CMA medical assistant certification online exam at a testing site.
According to the BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median medical assistant certification salary, for 2018, was$34,800.This translates to an hourly salary for a medical assistant certification professional to $16.73.
Another online certification for medical assistant option is the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential. This is discussed below.
The Registered Medical Assistant Credential (RMA)
The American Medical Technologists (AMT) organization administers the Registered Certification programs for medical assistants. The AMT offers this type of medical assistant certification online as well.
To learn how to get a medical assistant certification for an RMA certification for medical assistant online, a candidate must meet these online medical assistant certification requirements –
- Candidates (military or otherwise) must have graduated from a medical assistant certification online (or on-campus) program within the past four years.
- Pass the RMA medical assistant certification online exam at a testing site.
According to the BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median medical assistant certification salary, for 2018, was$34,800.
The Clinical Medical Assistant CertificationCredential (CMAC)
The Clinical Medical Certification Credential (CMAC) is a national credential administered through the AMCA – the American Medical Certification Association.
To learn how to get a certification for a medical assistant certification for a CMAC credential, a candidate must meet these online medical assistant certification requirements –
- A high school diploma or equivalent diploma.
- Complete a medical assistant online certification program or have at least a year of professional medical assistant experience.
- Pass the CCMA medical assistant certification online exam at a testing site.
The National Certified Medical Assistant Credential (NCMA)
The National Certification for medical assistant online credential is administered through the NCTT – the National Center for Competency Testing.
To learn how to get a certification for a medical assistant certification for an NCMA credential, a candidate must meet these medical assistant online certification requirements –
- Complete a medical assistant online certification program that is NCCT approved during the past 10 years.
- Two years of a documented work history.
- Pass the NCMA medical assistant certification online exam
According to the BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the medical assistant certification salary, for 2018, for those medical assisting professionals earning at the top of the salary range, was $48,720
Other Specialty Medical Assistant Certification Online Programs
In addition to the above-mentioned medical assistant certification programs, there are also these specialty certification programs for medical assistants in these areas. These credentials help emphasize a medical assistant’s professional experience and training –
- The PMAC – The Podiatric Medical Assistant certification is administered by the American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants (ASPMA).
- The COA – The Certified Ophthalmic Assistant certification is administered by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO).
The next section discusses what careers are available for those who earn an online certification for medical assistant degree or credential. Some careers are available immediately after earning your degree or credential. Still others, with higher pay scales and job responsibilities, require additional training and preparation.
Careers in Medical Assisting
Medical assistants have many career options as the skills they have learned in an accredited medical assistant training program are applicable to many medical-related fields. As noted previously, there are several medical assistant specialty tracks that offer higher salaries and additional job responsibilities for medical assistant professionals. The medically-related fields that offer employment opportunities for medical assistants include –
- Pediatrics – where a medical assistant assists a doctor or nurse in the care and treatment of young children and infants.
- Podiatric – where a medical assistant assists in non-threatening surgeries or applying casts/splints to patients.
- Obstetrics/Gynecology – where a medical assistant assists with those medical procedures related to women’s health. It is noted that an AAMA certification is required by most medical assistant employers.
- Chiropractic – where a medical assistant assists in both a back office and front office function role assisting patients by readying them for their chiropractic adjustments.
- Ophthalmologic – where a medical assistant assists medical personnel with eye treatments, diagnostic appointments, and minor surgery.
Medical assistant associate degree jobs generally include both clinical duties and administrative responsibilities. The mix of clinical and administrative responsibilities will depend heavily on the medical assistant’s job and the nature of the medical field they work within.
Administrative Duties Included in a Medical Assistant’s Job Responsibilities
Associate degree in medical assistant jobs include administrative duties like –
- Greeting patients who are entering the office.
- Answering office phones.
- Completing medical forms and records.
- Prepping patients for their exam with the doctor.
- Managing office billing.
- Scheduling appointments and lab work for patients.
- Handling business correspondence.
Clinical Duties Included in a Medical Assistant’s Job Responsibilities
The clinical responsibilities for those jobs for a medical assistant with associates degree include –
- Prepping patients before their exam with the doctor or medical procedure.
- Taking medical histories for nurses and doctors to use during the examination.
- Performing basic laboratory tests on site and assisting in ensuring bloodwork leaves the facility as expected.
- Assisting medical personnel during exams.
It is noted that many medical assisting professionals choose to further their education and career objectives by earning an x-ray credential – just one of many easy career transitions for medical assistant professionals. The transition from medical assistant to x-ray technician is a natural career progression, with many schools recognizing the connection and offering transition coursework to meet the student’s needs.
X-Ray Technical Salary Data
According to the BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an x-ray technician (who is also called a radiologic technician)for 2018, was $62,280.
Comparatively speaking, an x-ray technician earns nearly 80% more than a medical assistant. Here is the math that shows this large salary leap –
- X-Ray Technician Annual Salary for 2018 – $62,280
- Medical Assistant Annual Salary for 2018 – $34,800
- Salary Difference – $27,480
Next, divide the salary difference (between a medical assistant and an x-ray technician) by the medical assistant’s 2018 salary ($27,480/$34,800) = 78.9%. An x-ray technician, earned in 2018 a median salary that was 78.9% more than the median salary for a medical assistant.
Other career paths open to medical assistant professionals include the following opportunities –
Health Information Technicians – health information technicians are responsible for managing and organizing tremendous amounts of medical data. The median annual salary for those professionals employed as health information technicians, for 2019, was $42,630.
Nursing Assistant/Orderly – nursing assistants and orderlies provide basic care and support to patients in helping with ADLs – their Activities of Daily Living. The median annual salary for a nurse assistant or an orderly for 2019 was $29,640.
Occupational Therapy Assistants – occupational therapy assistants support a patient’s care and recovery and to help support a patient’s return to health. The median annual salary for a nurse assistant or an orderly for 2019 was $59,200.
Pharmacy Technicians – Pharmacy technicians, support pharmacists in the dispensing of medication in hospitals (to medical personnel) and retail locations (to patients). The median annual salary for a pharmacy technician for 2019 was $33,950.
Psychiatric Technicians – psychiatric technicians support medical personnel when caring for patients who have developmental disabilities or mental health issues. The median annual salary for a psychiatric technician for 2019 was $32,020.
Phlebotomists – phlebotomists are the professionals who are responsible for drawing blood for several purposes – lab tests, donations, or transfusions, to name a few. The median annual salary for a phlebotomist for 2019 was $35,510.
Salary Information for Medical Assistant Professionals
As you continue to research a career as a medical assistant, it is also important to ask (and answer) the following questions–
- How much do medical assistants make with an associates degree?
- What is the medical assistant associate degree hourly salary?
The government agency that manages salary data and statistics for all industries in the country, the BLS, estimates that there are more than 680,000 medical assistants working in the United States in 2018. Further, the BLS’ statisticians estimate that the job growth for medical assistants to be 23% through the year 2028. This job growth rate is significantly faster than the average job growth rate of all combined occupations in the United States.
According to BLS, a medical assistant with associates degree salary averages $34,800 per year, which translates to an hourly salary for medical assistants with associate degree of$16.73 per hour. Those at the upper end of the medical assistant associate degree salary range earn $48,720 per year. Those medical assistants at the lower end of the medical assistant associate degree salary range earn up to $25,820 per year.
Let’s review how an associates degree in medical assistant salary varies based on the job’s geographic location within the United States.
|Medical Assistant Salary with Associates Degree – Highest Employment Level by State||Number Employed||Medical Assistant with Associate Degree Salary|
Let’s review the top paying states for a medical assistant salary with associate degree.
|Medical Assistant Salary with Associates Degree – Top Paying States||Number of Medical Assistants Employed||Medical Assistant with Associate Degree Salary|
|District of Columbia||1,870||$44,530|
The following table reveals the metropolitan areas with the highest employment levels for medical assistants throughout the country –
|Medical Assistant Salary with Associates Degree – Highest Employment Level by Metropolitan Area||Number of Medical Assistants Employed||Medical Assistant with Associates Degree Salary|
|New York – New Jersey – Pennsylvania||35,380||$38,940|
|Los Angeles – Long Beach – Anaheim||32,040||$38,300|
|Dallas – Fort Worth – Arlington||19,560||$34,160|
|Chicago – Naperville – Elgin – IL – IN – WI||17,500||$37,550|
|Miami – Ft Lauderdale – West Palm Beach||16,530||$36,040|
The next table reveals the top paying metropolitan areas for an associate degree in medical assistant salary.
|Associate Degree Medical Assistant Salary – Top Paying Metro Areas||Number of Medical Assistants Employed||Salary for Medical Assistant with Associate Degree|
|Vallejo – Fairfield CA||1,150||$49,880|
|San Francisco – Oakland – Hayward CA||12,320||$48,920|
|Seattle – Tacoma – Bellevue, WA||8,570||$47,140|
|Santa Rosa, CA||1,420||$46,550|
|San Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara, CA||5,100||$45,450|
Finally, the next table reveals the top pay non-metro areas for an associate degree in medical assistant salary.
|Associate Degree Medical Assistant Salary – Top Paying Metro Areas||Number of Medical Assistants Employed||Associates Degree in Medical Assistant Salary|
|Alaska Non-Metro areas||520||$48,000|
|Northeast Minnesota areas||80||$42,040|
|Non-Metro Hawaii – Kauai areas||730||$41,900|
|Non-Metro Massachusetts areas||280||$41,660|
|Non-Metro Eastern Sierra/Mother Lode areas||290||$40,790|