Individuals qualify for many medical assistant jobs in different healthcare sectors with a Medical Assistant associate degree. According to the statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 720,900 medical assistants were working in the United States during the calendar year 2020. If you want to become a medical assistant, keep reading to learn more about this fast-growing medical support field.
Is a medical assistant an associate degree or a certificate program? Those individuals with a career objective to enter the assistant medical field generally pursue a two-year associate degree either in a traditional classroom or through a distance learning program. Are there medical assisting schools that offer online degrees?
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 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 nationwide regional offices to evaluate content and merit programs. These agencies are part of the federal government’s US Department of Education (USDE). A student benefits from attending a medical assisting program with accreditation from an oversight authority. Here are some significant benefits.
- Financial aid may only be available for accredited assistant medical programs; therefore, it is essential to determine if the financial aid you need will be available for your chosen program.
- Suppose students need to transfer in the middle of an academic program. In that case, the credit units that have been earned – to date – will likely be considered for credit when applying for a transfer to a new medical assisting 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 assisting 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 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 Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is a non-profit agency founded in 1994. It is currently recognized by the government’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Medical Assisting Classes and Curriculum
A degree in medical assisting teaches general education classes, core medical assisting courses, and clinical and administrative tasks. Below are some of the topics and classes students take.
- Medical terminology
- English composition
- Human anatomy and physiology
- General body systems, structures, functions, and processes
- Taking blood pressure and vital signs
- Electronic health records
- How to handle laboratory specimens
- Coding procedures for billing and medical records
- How to administer injectable medications
- First aid and CPR
- Different types of clinical procedures
- Ethics and professionalism
- Interpersonal skills
Types of Medical Assistant Degrees
Most individuals enter medical assisting after they complete a post-secondary education program. This is the preferable path to employment because most employers want to hire individuals who completed a medical assisting program that has been appropriately accredited.
Before enrolling in a degree program, consider investigating programs and schools. Students can attend medical assisting programs online or attend classes on campus. Additionally, students can earn a medical assisting diploma or a degree in medical assisting. Individuals interested in a bachelor’s degree typically choose nursing, healthcare administration, health sciences, or healthcare information technology majors.
Depending on their career goals, some students earn a diploma. These programs are shorter so students can enter the workforce faster. However, individuals with an associate degree earn a higher starting salary.
A medical assisting associate degree takes most students two years to complete. Those with an associate degree generally work in several types of jobs. Many students who complete an online medical assisting associate degree choose a career in one of these types of programs.
- An associate degree followed by obtaining a CMA certification to specialize in administrative medical assisting.
- Associate degree and a RMA (Registered Medical Assistant) certification to emphasize a professional’s credibility.
- Successful completion of an associate degree followed by a Clinical Medical Assistant Certification (CMAC) that prepares and trains professionals to work on equipment such as an EEG machine or an EKG machine.
It is noted that graduates of an online or an on-campus associate degree program will likely need to complete some on-the-job training. The exact nature and depth of training will depend on the job and the employer.
Professional Licenses & Medical Assistant Certification Programs
As you continue to research certification programs, focus on these goals and inquire regarding certification programs and professionals’ licenses –
- Learn how to get a certification online or at a local community college.
- How to get a certification to perform specific medical assisting duties using technological equipment.
- What can I do with a clinical medical assisting certification after completing the program?
- Are there free certification programs or offer students financial aid?
jobs are available without a certification
Specific jobs are available without a certification requirement. However, a certification is required for those who perform specific duties. Here are a few examples of laws that require certification.
- Certification for an assistant who is a phlebotomist.
- Certification for a MA who uses x-ray equipment.
It is also a great idea to obtain certification by enrolling in an online program. Credentialing is a vital differential that helps set medical assisting professionals apart from their peers. Voluntary national certification 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 salary range.
The Certified Medical Assistant Credential (CMA)
The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers the CMA certificate. Many employers prefer to hire someone with a 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.
To get a CMA certification for medical assistant online, a candidate must meet the certification requirements.
- Complete a 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 assisting certification salary is $34,800.This translates to an hourly salary of $16.73.
Another online certification for a 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 is $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 experience.
- Pass the CCMA 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 earn a certification for an NCMA credential, a candidate must meet these online certification requirements –
- Successful completion of a certification program that is NCCT approved during the past 10 years.
- Two years of documented work history.
- Pass the NCMA exam
Other Specialty Medical Assistant Certification Online Programs
In addition to the above-mentioned medical assistant certification programs, there are also these specialty certification programs 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).
Where Do Medical Assistants Work?
So, what careers are available for those who earn an online certification for a medical assistant degree or credential? Some jobs are available immediately after earning your degree or credential. Still others, with higher pay scales and job responsibilities, require additional training and preparation.
Medical assistants have many career options as the skills they have learned in an accredited medical assistant training program apply to many medical-related fields. As noted previously, several medical assistant specialty tracks offer higher salaries and additional job responsibilities for medical assistant professionals.
Medical Fields for Employment
The medically-related fields that offer employment opportunities include –
- Pediatrics – where a medical assistant assists a doctor or nurse in treating 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.
What Do Medical Assistants Do?
Medical assisting involves 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 and Job Responsibilities
Associate degree in medical assistant jobs requires administrative skills. Below are some common administrative duties.
- 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 and Job Responsibilities
Below are some basic clinical responsibilities of a medical assistant.
- Prepping patients before their exam with the doctor or medical procedure.
- Taking vital signs.
- Taking medical histories for nurses and doctors to use during the examination.
- Performing basic laboratory tests on site and ensuring bloodwork leaves the facility as expected.
- Assisting medical personnel during exams.
Many medical assisting professionals choose to further their education and career objectives. Some interested students successfully complete an x-ray credential. This path offers job opportunities and easy career transitions for medical assistant professionals.
X-Ray Technical Salary Data
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.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for an x-ray technician, also called a radiologic technician, is $61,980. Comparatively speaking, an x-ray technician earns nearly 80% more than a medical assistant.
Other Career Paths
Other career paths open to medical assistant professionals include the following opportunities in administrative and clinical settings.
Health Information Technician
Health information technicians manage and organize tremendous amounts of medical data. The median annual salary for those professionals employed as health information technicians is $42,630. (BLS)
Nursing Assistant or Orderly
Nursing assistants and orderlies provide primary care and support to patients in helping with ADLs – their Activities of Daily Living. They work in different healthcare environments including outpatient care centers. The median annual salary for a nurse assistant or an orderly is $29,640. (BLS)
Occupational Therapy Assistant
Occupational therapy assistants are part of a healthcare team. They support a patient’s care and recovery and help support a patient’s return to health. The median annual salary for occupational therapy assistants is $59,200. (BLS)
Pharmacy technicians support pharmacists in dispensing medication in hospitals to medical personnel and retail locations to patients. The median annual salary for a pharmacy technician is $33,950. (BLS)
Psychiatric technicians support medical personnel when caring for patients with developmental disabilities or mental health issues. The median annual salary for a psychiatric technician is $32,020. (BLS)
Phlebotomists are the professionals responsible for drawing blood for several purposes – lab tests, donations, or transfusions, to name a few. The median annual salary for a phlebotomist is $35,510. (BLS)
Salary Information for Medical Assistant Professionals
How much do make with an associate degree? The BLS, the government agency that manages salary data and statistics for all industries in the country, estimates that more than 680,000 medical assistants are working in the United States. Further, the BLS’ statisticians estimate that the job growth for medical assistants to be 23% by the year 2030. This job growth rate is significantly faster than the average job growth rate of all combined occupations in the United States.
What is the medical assistant associate degree hourly salary? According to BLS, salary averages $34,800 per year, which translates to an hourly salary of $16.73 per hour. Those at the upper end of the salary range earn $48,720 per year. Those at the lower end of the salary range earn up to $25,820 annually.
Top States with the Most Jobs
The BLS occupational outlook handbook provides salary and employment information by state and geographic location. Below are the top states for employment in medical assisting.
States with Highest Pay
Let’s review the top paying states for a medical assistant salary with an associate degree.
|State||Hourly mean wage||Annual mean wage|
|Washington||$ 22.75||$ 47,320|
|District of Columbia||$ 22.45||$ 46,690|
|Alaska||$ 22.30||$ 46,390|
|California||$ 21.53||$ 44,780|
|Massachusetts||$ 21.25||$ 44,200|
Metropolitan Areas with the Highest Employment
The following table reveals the metropolitan areas with the highest employment levels throughout the country.
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||36,500|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||30,700|
|Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||19,170|
|Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA||15,810|
Top paying Non-metro Areas
The top pay non-metro areas for an associate degree in medical assistant salary.
|Northeastern Wisconsin||$ 18.81||$ 39,130|
|Balance of Lower Peninsula of Michigan||$ 16.69||$ 34,710|
|North Northeastern Ohio||$ 16.45||$ 34,220|
|South Central Kentucky||$ 14.88||$ 30,940|
|Southwest Maine||$ 18.53||$ 38,540|
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