How Long Is Medical Assistant School?

If you’ve visited a doctor’s office or hospital recently, you know the important role medical assistants now play in the medical field. They’re everywhere, in all types of offices, and they often provide more time and attention to patients than licensed physicians do.

In the last decade, medical assisting has emerged as one of the hottest jobs in the health care sector. This career path offers enormous employment possibilities, reliable pay, exemplary employment benefits and job security you won’t find in many other fields. According to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 138,900 new jobs are expected to become available to medical assistants in the U.S. between 2014 and 2024.

While the prospects for professionals in this field certainly seem spectacular, many students considering a medical assistant degree often ask, “How long is medical assistant school?” The answer to that question is … it depends. The following five factors will directly impact the length of time you can expect to spend in medical assistant school.

What impacts the length of medical assistant school

  • Basic requirements – The education requirements you’ll need to complete vary by program and institution, but typically the minimum requirement to get started is a high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma or GED.
  • Certificate program length – A basic medical assistant certificate program lasts about one year. These programs often provide instruction on medical terms, human anatomy, mathematics, science, insurance processes and procedures, and basic pharmacology. You’ll also be expected to participate in laboratory coursework. A certificate program can be beneficial because it will qualify you to code and file a variety of insurance forms, update patient records, set patient appointments, order lab services, and gather specimens.
  • Earning advancement – If you want to advance in your career, you’ll more than likely want to enter a two-year degree program. With an associate degree, you’ll be qualified to take blood samples and X-rays, order prescription refills, remove stitches, make blood draws, and give medications with a doctor’s supervision. Graduates who earn a two-year degree also command a larger salary. And the additional year of medical assistant classes can help make you a more qualified candidate for hire.
  • More requirements for an associate degree – An associate degree from an accredited institution and successful completion of an exam for a Certified Medical Assistant credential is required by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The CMA (AAMA) credential designates professionals who’ve achieved medical assistant certification through the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The credential must be renewed every five years.
  • Learning on the job – In this field, learning continues long after you graduate. Most new professionals in this role receive on-the-job training for several months once they’re hired and begin their medical assistant duties. Throughout this period, they become more familiar with proper medical terms and processes for recording patient-related information, as well as learning clinic and hospital procedures.

Of course, depending on the state, you may need to complete additional requirements. For example, some employers require medical assistants to participate in formal education programs. Other employers give preference to graduates of medical assistant education programs.

Medical assistant jobs have a bright future, which is mostly due to the aging Baby Boomer generation, who’ll need more preventive and follow-up care as time goes on. Around the country, clinics will be leaning on medical assistants more and more to free physicians to see a larger volume of patients. Whatever degree path you choose, the length of time you invest should be well worth the rewards you’ll reap.

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