Medical assistants play a very valuable role, but they are NOT nurses !
Medical assistants play a very valuable
role, but they are NOT nurses !

Should I get an Associate’s Degree or Certificate in Medical Assisting?

When considering a medical assisting career, you have two degree choices: a certificate or an Associate degree. Many junior or technical colleges offer both. Medical assisting certificate programs are typically 9-12 months long, while an Associate degree program can be 24 months long. Before deciding on a program, be sure to weigh the benefits of both education types to see what best fits your needs and lifestyle.

How do you choose?

It can be confusing to figure out whether an Associate degree in medical assisting is better, or simply a certificate. Here are some questions to help:

  • How many months can you commit to an education program?
  • What is the job market like for MAs in your area?
  • Do local employers prefer one degree type over the other?
  • Do you plan to return to school to further your education within five years?
  • Do you plan to “try out” the medical profession to see if it’s for you?

Certificate Programs take just one year !

Medical assisting certificate programs are generally one year in length or less. This education type is very focused on the specific knowledge and skills you’ll need to work as a medical assistant. These programs are often very fast-paced and intense. You can expect to spend dedicated hours studying and completing externships.


Benefits:

  • You’ll complete school sooner so you can enter the job market quicker
  • A focused program that doesn’t make you take extra courses that you don’t need
  • Usually less expensive than an Associate degree program

One major drawback of a certificate program is that classes you’ve taken may not be eligible for credit should you choose to continue your education. Because many certificate courses are not recognized as college credits, you may have to repeat them when entering higher education programs.

AAS Degree could get you a higher starting salary:

Associate degree programs in medical assisting are a bit more in-depth than a certificate program. You’ll be required to take general liberal arts classes, as well as core clinical and administrative courses. You may be required to take language and writing courses, business communications and sociology or speech classes as part of your liberal arts requirement.

General education classes may also be a requirement, including basic math and English courses. The foundation of an Associate degree in medical assisting is similar to those found at any college or university.

Benefits:

  • Your college credits are more likely to transfer to a Bachelor degree program or other higher education
  • Employers may view you as a more well-rounded and educated candidate for employment
  • You may receive a slightly higher starting salary, or be eligible for advanced employment
  • You may be more likely to land a job in specialty medicine as these jobs can require a higher knowledge base that general medicine.

If you plan to further your education—say to go on to a registered nurse program—an Associate degree in medical assisting is a great choice. You’ll have more college credits to apply to your education and may feel more academically prepared for challenging classes.

One drawback of an Associate degree is the cost. These programs can cost several thousand dollars in program, externship and graduation fees.

 

Article Written by Elizabeth Otto

Elizabeth Otto is a freelance writer specializing in medical and health articles. Otto has worked as a certified medical assistant in specialty practice since 1994 and is also a nationally registered emergency medical technician.

* Featured medical assisting schools

Get hands-on training with the Allen School Online. We offer an accelerated medical assistant certificate program at our campuses in Jamaica, Queens, and downtown Brooklyn. Our program is tailored to meet the needs of the allied health industry, providing training in medical skills in our practical and clinical classroom environment.

Programs:

  • Medical Assistant - Certificate
Locations: Brooklyn

At Porter and Chester Institute, we’re serious about preparing you for career success. By completing one of our Automotive, Computer, Healthcare, or Trades programs, you’ll enjoy five advantages during your job search:

 

1. You gain knowledge and skills employers want you to know.

2. You learn from instructors who’ve worked in the field.

3. You learn by doing through hands-on instruction.

4. You develop personal skills and habits to become more employable.

5. You enhance your job interview skills and résumé.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting
  • Dental Assisting
Locations: Rocky Hill
Get the training you need for a career in the health care field at Unitek College. We provide career training in vocational nursing.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting
  • Vocational Nursing
Locations: Concord
For over 110 years, Northwestern College has been proud to help students like you succeed. Offering career training that will fit your busy schedule, we have continually shaped our curricula to meet the growing and shifting demands of today’s workforce.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting
Locations: Bridgeview

The Berkeley Advantage®is part of a proven approach to career-focused education that can help students prepare for success.

Programs:

  • AAS in Medical Assistant
  • Certificate in Medical Assistant
Locations: Newark
In response to the demand of Florida's rapidly growing population, City College is focused on, and committed to, providing the best in business and career education.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting
  • Veterinary Technician
  • Medical Office Admin/Billing and Coding
Locations: Gainesville

For over 35 years, Keiser University has maintained a practical, hands-on approach to career education to help our students achieve their personal and professional goals.  Our student-centered approach remains at the foundation of the Keiser University mission and continues to attract students who prefer a more personal learning experience.

Programs:

  • Associate of Science in Medical Assisting
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Science
  • Associate of Science in Medical Administrative Billing and Coding
  • And more...
Locations: Lakeland
Successful careers begin at the Milan Institute. We offer quality hands-on training, experienced faculty and a staff committed to helping you realize your goals.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting
  • Pharmacy Technician
Locations: Fresno
Get your career started with Intercoast Colleges. We offer a number of certificate programs in a variety of fields, including medical, allied health, massage therapy, nursing, and electrical training.

Programs:

  • Medical Assistant
Locations: Fairfield
With five convenient Alberta locations, Reeves College can help train you for a rewarding new career. Choose from career-focused programs in Healthcare, Business and Hospitality.

Programs:

  • Health Care Aide
  • Medical Office Assistant
Locations: Calgary

Comments

3 Responses to “Should I get an Associate’s Degree or Certificate in Medical Assisting?”
  1. jazzy says:

    Hi im a 37 yr old, I reside in NY, I need some advice theirs a School near by called Sanford brown, they said I have to get my associates degree in medical assistant in order for me to go in to register nursing,but the medical assistant associate degree is about 20,000 is that exp to get in associates degree?

    • Sandra says:

      I’m confused as well the school I’m looking at is Santa Barbara business college and to get a degree in medical assisting cost 35,000 but don’t know if their are cheaper schools that offer the same degree for a lesser tuition fee don’t need to put my family in a bigger debt

  2. Ashley says:

    I really need help finding a LPN program in GA so I can finally move back to FL.

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