FAQs About Medical Assisting Schools

FAQs About Medical Assisting Schools

What kind of degree do I need to become a medical assistant?

Most medical assistant programs offer either a certificate or associate's degree. There is no required degree, per se, to become a medical assistant, but most employers prefer to hire someone with formal training. Some medical assistants also opt to pursue professional certification through organizations such as the American Association of Medical Assistants.

How long will it take me to get a medical assisting degree?

That depends on the kind of program you choose. A certificate or diploma program typically takes between nine months and a year, while an associate's degree program will take about two years of full-time study. Most medical assistant programs offer flexible schedules, so students with full-time jobs can attend school part-time. Part-time programs, however, take a bit longer than full-time programs do.

How do I know if I'm choosing a good program?

The school you choose needs to be a good fit for you personally. When selecting a program, think about the factors that are most important to you, such as location, length of program, instructor qualifications, or facilities. Once you've found a school that seems right for you, check to see if the school is accredited. More than 600 medical assisting programs in the United States are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Accreditation is important because it demonstrates that the school has met certain standards established for all medical assisting programs nationwide.

Can I do a medical assisting externship?

Many medical assistant programs have an externship (or internship) requirement built in to the program, and often times, your school will place you or offer a great deal of assistance in placing you in a position. Hands-on experience is vital to good medical assistant training. If your school does not require you to complete an externship, it's a good idea to pursue this on your own. Check with your school's career services department or contact local physician's offices to see about internship opportunities.

What kind of salary can I expect as a medical assistant?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2004, medical assistants earned a median salary of $24,610 annually. Median earnings ranged from $21,930 for those working with health practitioners to $27,490 for those working with colleges, universities, and professional schools. Salaries vary, of course, depending on how much education and experience one has.

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