Getting the education you need to become a medical assistant doesn’t have to take an incredibly long time to complete. The median salary in 2018 for medical assistants was $16.16 per hour, or $33,610 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so getting your postsecondary education in just a few weeks or months make this a job worth pursuing.
However, you may not want to try to become a medical assistant in 4 weeks or to become a medical assistant in 6 weeks, as we’ll explain.
There are typically two types of medical assistants: administrative and clinical, but some medical assistants perform both duties. They may record patient information and measure vital signs, and they may give injections or schedule appointments. They may also prepare blood samples and update medical charts, for example.
Most states don’t require formal education for medical assistants. Many employers like to work with individuals who have completed a postsecondary program. You can find medical assisting programs at community or vocational colleges, technical schools, and universities. They often take about a year to finish and offer a certificate or diploma. You can also earn an associate’s degree, which is a two-year degree.
While many programs may take several months or up to two years to finish, there are accelerated programs that you can consider as well. While it may not be possible to become a medical assistant overnight, you can do so within several weeks or months. For more advanced medical assistant training, you can earn an associate’s degree.
Medical Assistant Certificate vs. Associate’s Degree
When you enroll in a medical assistant certification course, you’ll take classes like these:
• Medical Terminology
• Introduction to Computers
• Applied Communication
• MA Clinical Procedures
• Medical Law and Ethics
• Body Function and Structure
• Pathology and Prevention
• Pharmacology for Medical Assistants
• Pathology and Prevention
• Administration and Safety
An associate degree program includes classes like those of a certification program, but they include more, such as Psychology, Statistics, Business Mathematics, and Microbiology. You’ll earn about 60 credit hours with an associate degree, and you can use it as a gateway to a bachelor’s, say in nursing, if you want to, or to another related degree.
Medical Assistant Certification Cost
Certification programs often range between $2,000 and $5,000, but that depends heavily on the particular course. Courses in this range may include help from an instructor and career supports for graduates, but an accredited all-online program may cost $1,500 or more.
An associate degree can cost $10,000-$15,000 or more, depending on the institution you attend. You’ll also likely go to campus at least part of the time to take classes and will have more hands-on experience. You’ll also probably have to pay the certification exam fees from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), which are about $250.
Making a Choice
While you may be in a hurry to get a CMA certification or degree, take your time to make the right decision. To become a medical assistant in 4 weeks is unrealistic. However, to become a medical assistant in a couple of months or more is possible. Remember, though, that the cheapest and fastest version of the education you’ll need may not be the best. However, it is essential to evaluate the merit of each program.
• The reputation of the institution.
• Whether the institution is accredited. (It should be by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs. You will need to graduate from an accredited program to sit your medical assistant certification exams, like the CMA Certification exam from the American Association of Medical Assistants.)
• The graduation and employment rates of the students of each institution.
• If there is job placement assistance or guidance.
• Calling local physician offices, nursing facilities, and hospitals to ask about local or online programs from which their employees have graduated.
• Talking to other CMAs to see which programs they recommend based on their experience.
• Talk to employers to see if they recognize the program you’re considering and what they think about it.
You may hear great things about programs that take just six weeks, such as St. Augustine School of Medical Assistants. However, be very cautious about handing your money over to a program like this. There are many negative reviews about the quality of education and whether or not the program is even accredited. You can find a review of St. Augustine here: http://www.medicalassistantatlas.com/st-augustine-school-of-medical-assistants-review/. You can’t get a quality medical assistant degree online in 6 weeks, and you definitely can’t become a medical assistant in 4 weeks and have the education needed to do your job well.
There are, however, other programs that you can attend that will give you a great degree. Some of them may be online, and some of them may be hybrids (online with in-person clinical practicums) or entirely in-person.
Fast-Track Medical Assistant Programs
- Time Frame: 4 months
- Course Type: Online
- Course Cost: $3599
- Certification Awarded: Certificate
- Accreditation: None. However several programs are recognized and certified by industry-specific organizations.
CareerStep offers a fast-track, accelerated online medical assistant program. This certificate program can be finished in for months but students have up to six months to complete the program, allowing students to work at their own pace.
CareerStep’s courses provide an interactive learning experience with online games, interactive tools, exercises and images to help you master the material. CareerStep also offers other online healthcare-related training such as medical billing and coding and EMS training.
Emily Griffith Technical College
The Emily Griffith Technical College offers a six-month certification program, but that does not include a clinical component to get you the practical experience you need to be successful in the medical assistant field. It has 39.5 total credit hours, and its estimated in-state tuition cost without books is $6,221. Eighty-six percent of its program graduates found jobs as medical assistants, according to the Council on Occupational Education.
Penn Foster College
This program is an associate degree (four semesters) that you complete online and in which you do an externship. The externship is where you get clinical practice to hone the skills you learn online. The program offers flexible payment arrangements, and you’ll have career support, a success coach, textbooks, and access to instructors and teaching assistants. This program does not have any set class schedule, which means that you can learn and study when you’re available. You can talk to your teachers through text, phone, email, and even chat with your classmates online.
You have the support you need to complete the degree at your pace. At the end of the course, you’ll be ready to sit for the Registered Medical Assistant exam from American Medical Technologists, the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant exam from the National Healthcareer Association, the National Certified Medical Assistant Exam from the National Center for Competency Testing, and the Clinical Medical Assistant Exam from the American Medical Certification Association.
Programs Available Outside of Colleges
Don’t discount programs that are not offered by colleges. You can, for example, find programs that last several months and that are accredited but that are not provided by a technical school or a university/college. For example, health centers often offer medical assisting programs that will help you pass the certification exams. In California, for instance, UCLA Health in Los Angeles or the Southern California Regional Occupational Center both offer medical assisting programs. You can find a list of the accredited programs from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.
Going to school to become a medical assistant is the right step toward a new career. Do not rush this type of education. Don’t pay money to a program that doesn’t give you the foundation that you need to be successful on the job that doesn’t offer you the practical or theoretical knowledge you need to advance in the career path or to take care of your patients well. It is worth spending several months getting the right education from an accredited program so that you’re ready to sit the certification exams with confidence and find the right position for you upon graduation. Avoid trying to become a medical assistant in 6 weeks so that you can get the job you’ve been wanting and so that you can do it well.
Search for Medical Assistant Programs Near Me
If you’re searching for medical assistant programs near you, use the program finder below. Simply enter your zip code and this tool will populate schools with medical assisting programs near your location.