Medical Assistant Programs

Duties and Responsibilities: Medical assistants perform different clerical and clinical duties. They are healthcare professionals who work in the hospitals and in the doctors' offices. In terms of duties and obligations, they vary according to location, size and the specialty area of the medical assistant . If they work in smaller practices, they usually have various responsibilities. On the other hand, those who work in larger facilities are deployed in a particular area and work under the supervision of a department administrator.

Regardless of their duties, they are first ones being contacted by patients when they enter a medical facility. They greet patients, answer phones, organize patients' records, fill out insurance forms, etc. Their clinical duties will include preparing patients for medical examination, assisting the physician during an examination, changing dressings, and so on.

They are also the ones who explain the treatment procedures to patients and provide instructions on how patients take their medication and follow their special diets. However, their clinical duties are dictated by the state law. One of the clinical tasks they cannot undertake is to provide medical treatment without the supervision of a licensed medical doctor.

Medical assisting programs

Certificate & Diploma

You will find for courses in medical assisting in vocational-technical high schools, community or junior colleges, post-secondary vocational schools, private colleges and universities, and welfare-to-work programs.

The lecture portion of classes takes place in a classroom setting. The skills portion takes place in laboratory setting.

Some schools offer medical assistant courses online, and, if the school is accredited many students who cannot attend traditional classroom courses can work toward becoming certified through this method. Online administrative medical assistant certificate courses can be completed in as little as 6-8 weeks.

On graduation the student will receive a diploma or a certificate of completion. Diplomas and class-based certificate programs in medical assisting can take between 9 months to a year to complete. Typical coursework involves: medical terminology, medical office procedures, clinical skills, laboratory skills and many offer a medical assistant externship.

Associate and Bachelor Degrees

Associate Degrees take 2 years to complete and students need to have completed the certificate program in Medical Assisting before commencing the Associate Degree. This degree program offers a solid understanding of medical terminology, anatomy, pathology and basic concepts of pharmacology and psychology. Many employers view the Associate Degree in Medical Assisting as a sign of increased competence and readiness for career or salary advancement.

Some colleges offer a Bachelor's Degree to medical assistants who have graduated with an associate's degree. The Bachelor Degree specializes in areas such as health care management or health care facility administration allowing you to transfer seamlessly to positions in Healthcare Management. Median wages for Medical and Health Services Managers is around $ 84,270 per year. *

Accreditation of Medical Assisting Programs

Accredited Schools

Accreditation will guarantee you that the courses you are going to take have been evaluated and tested for their quality of teaching and depth of study. In other words, obtaining an accredited medical assistant education program assures you that you will have the right knowledge and proper skills to become effective in this profession plus you are are then ready to take your examination test.

When planning to take up medical assistant training programs, ensure that the training course is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

Furthermore, only graduates from accredited training programs can take up the certification exams and get certified through either American Association of Medical Assistants or American Medical Technologists . Otherwise you would need work experience in this field for at 5 years before you can qualify for certification. Read more about the certification process at: Medical Assistant Certification

Career Opportunities

A graduate of a medical assisting program can also apply for other allied health professional jobs as much of the coursework involved intersects in other disciplines such as: front or back office medical assistant, office assistant, receptionist, EKG technician, lab assistant or aide, blood donor technician, billing clerk, medical coder, health care assistant or phlebotomist.

Because of such versatility, medical assistants find employment in a variety of settings: offices, clinics, medical labs, insurance companies, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, education institutions, surgical centers, urgent care and ECG or EKG departments in hospitals.

The job outlook for this occupation is strong. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the employment is expected to grow by 34% from 2008 to 2018.**

Finally talk to the career placement services staff in your choice of college or school. They can be of tremendous help to you even before you graduate – with your resume, cover letter, interviewing techniques and where to begin your search. Some may even offer placement, can help with financing and so much more.

References:

Delmar's Administrative Medical Assisting, 4th Edition, Lindh W. et al., 2009

* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Medical and Health Services Managers, website visited November 02, 2012.

** Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Medical Assistants, website visited November 02, 2012.