ACCREDITATION FOR MEDICAL ASSISTANT PROGRAMS
Accreditation is a credential that secondary colleges, universities, and vocational programs earn by meeting a set of standards that is set forth by an independent accrediting agency. This credential is used to keep schools in check, to ensure that they are providing paying students with a quality education that provides them with the appropriate courses, access to academic support resources, and assistance in career preparation.
Schools are required to maintain their accreditation for a number of reasons, perhaps the most important of which is funding. A college or university that is not accredited does not have access to federal financial aid or state funding, which means that all public institutions are required to be accredited in order to stay open.
Furthermore, a university will only recognize community college credits or other transfer credits that come from an accredited program, and a graduate school will only accept a degree that is earned at an accredited university. Any student who is planning to build on his or her education absolutely must attend an accredited school.
How to Check a School’s Accreditation
There are several types of accreditation, but the most common is regional accreditation. Every state in the United States is covered by one of six accrediting boards. Each of these boards is independent of the others, and is, therefore, able to dictate its own accreditation standards, and is able to audit schools according to their own preferred mechanisms and timeline. Students can visit their regional accrediting organization’s website to see if the program they are considering is listed on the website as having the appropriate credentials.
The other type of accreditation is set forth for a specific type of program by a professional organization. For example, the American Bar Association provides accreditation for law schools, in addition to regional accreditation. Medical assistant training programs may be reviewed and accredited by the Medical Assisting Education Review Board. This organization periodically reviews a program to ensure that it is continually up to standards, and accreditation may be revoked at any time. (Medical Assisting Education Review Board)
Why Check a School’s Accreditation
Students who are interested in checking a program’s accreditation may do so in several ways. First of all, they may peruse the website for their program (if there is one), as schools generally list their accreditations for the public. Alternatively, students are free to contact program directors at their training institute and request proof of regional or MAER accreditation. Directly checking the accrediting board’s website can be an easy way to access a list of approved programs in a student’s area, and the United States Department of Education makes it easy to check the accreditation of a specific school through their online database. (DOE)
MEDICAL ASSISTANT ASSOCIATE DEGREES
Associate’s degree programs for medical students are still relatively rare. Because most employers are happy to hire applicants who hold certificates in medical assistance, the associate’s degree seems superfluous to most students, since it is unlikely to increase their earning potential. Plus, earning an associate’s degree requires two years of full-time study, and students will take more rigorous coursework than students who are enrolled in certificate programs. However, the medical industry is growing and national attention has been turned to job opportunities in health care, so more and more people are pursuing entry-level positions, and the more training and education a person has, the more likely he or she is to qualify for these careers, especially in the most competitive urban areas.
Earning Associate’s Degrees for Medical Assistants
While earning an associate’s degree in medical assistance, students will take several general education requirement courses. These will vary depending on school, but usually include some kind of math courses (unless the student has satisfactorily met math requirements through comparable high school classes), English or composition to help students develop written communication skills, and possibly a foreign language course. Some schools require that community college students take career or study skill development classes to help them plan accordingly and help them succeed in school and after.
A student who is seeking an associate’s degree in medical assisting will take many of the same training courses as a student who is seeking a certificate. They will study diagnostics, medical terminology, pharmaceuticals, general treatments and medical procedures, as well as clerical subjects like insurance processing, medical transcription, and medical coding and billing. Administrative classes are also offered through some programs, as sometimes medical assistants are hired to manage health care offices. However, as part of an associate’s degree program, students will also be expected to take courses in general sciences, including chemistry, biology, physiology, and anatomy. Many students find these classes difficult, but community colleges generally offer support services to students who are struggling academically.
Using an Associate’s Degree for Medical Assistants
A graduate of a medical assisting associate’s program will apply for and be eligible for the same jobs as a person who has a certificate in medical assisting, and some applicants for the same position may have no experience or education beyond high school at all. However, the main benefit that associate’s degree graduates have over certificate holders is the potential to pursue further study. Students may be able to transfer many of their credits to a university and earn a bachelor’s degree in a medical field- such as nursing, healthcare administration, physiology, or pharmacology- in only a couple of years, saving them thousands of dollars and greatly improving their career prospects. (California Medical Assistants Association)