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.

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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

We Change Lives...One Person At A Time. ® Start your career education with Daymar College. We offer certificate, diploma, associate, and bachelor degree programs for careers in the business, health care, criminal justice, paralegal studies and computer technology fields.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting, Associate of Science
  • Medical Assisting, Diploma
Locations: Columbus
Founded in 1886, National College and American National University (ANU) are dedicated to the training and education of men and women for a full life and a successful career in a number of fields in business, information technology, and health care. National College and ANU offer more than 45 academic programs including numerous masters’, bachelors’, and associate degree programs, short-term diploma programs, English as a Second Language, and corporate training.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting - Associate
  • Medical Billing and Coding - Diploma
Locations: Harrisonburg

Centura College, with campus locations in Virginia, South Carolina and Florida, is dedicated to helping students gain the skills and attitudes necessary to succeed. Drawing from over 30 years of career school experience.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting Diploma
  • Associate of Occupational Science Degree in Medical Assisting-Concentration in Clinical Support
Locations: Newport News
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: Hayward

Founded in 1886, National College and American National University (ANU) are dedicated to the training and education of men and women for a full life and a successful career in a number of fields in business, information technology, and health care. National College and ANU offer more than 45 academic programs including numerous masters’, bachelors’, and associate degree programs, short-term diploma programs, English as a Second Language, and corporate training.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting - Associate
Locations: Madison
Branford Hall Career Institute offers career-focused education that gives you the job skills you need to make the leap into some of today's hottest careers.

Programs:

  • Professional Medical Assistant
Locations: Springfield

About Brightwood College

Brightwood College offers accelerated programs that combine flexible schedules and professional instruction to create a rewarding learning experience for individuals focused on gaining the skills for specific careers. Brightwood College is owned and operated by Education Corporation of America.

About Education Corporation of America

Education Corporation of America's institutions broaden access to postsecondary educational opportunities.

Programs:

  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Office Specialist
Locations: Brownsville

At UEI College, we want you to succeed. We’re like a family and we want you to be a part of it. From the moment you enter ourschool, to graduation and beyond, we are right there with you.

Programs:

  • Medical Assistant (8-Month Diploma Program)
  • Medical Office Specialist
  • Dental Assistant (8-Month Diploma Program)
Locations: Chula Vista

Virginia College  continues the tradition ofgiving lives new direction, fulfilling our mission statement tostudents wherever they live and offering the chance to pursue adegree while maintaining commitments to work and family.

Programs:

  • AS - Medical Assistant
  • Certificate in Pharmacy Technician
  • Certificate in Medical Billing & Coding
  • And more...
Locations: Macon
Get allied health training with Ross Medical Education Center. We offer programs in dental assisting, medical assisting, medical insurance billing and office administration, and pharmacy tech.

Programs:

  • Medical Assistant
  • Dental Assistant
  • Medical Insurance Billing and Office Administration
Locations: Niles

Comments

4 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.

  3. mijba Ahmed says:

    medical assistant From where we can get higher education. plz About us

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