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

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: Windsor
Seacoast Career College offers career-focused education that gives you the skills you need to make the leap into your new career.

Programs:

  • Professional Medical Assistant
  • Dental Assisting
  • Health Claims Specialist
Locations: Manchester
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
  • Administrative Medical Assistant
  • Dental Assistant
  • And more...
Locations: Nampa

We Change Lives...One Person At A Time. ® Start your career education with Daymar College Online. We offer certificate, diploma, associate, and bachelor's degree programs for careers in the business, medical, legal, and computer technology fields. Our programs offer hands-on education and classroom discussions.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting - Administrative, Associates Degree
  • Billing & Coding Specialist, Associates Degree

California Career Institute (CCI) was founded by nurses with PhD degrees from renowned
educational institutitions such as UCSF and USD.  CCI employs expert educators in State Board
Exam (NCLEX) Preparation Services and boasts a high passing rate.  CCI prides itself in providing
high-quality instruction, supportive learning environments, excellent counseling, private student
loans, and financial plans.

Programs:

  • Medical Assistant Program
Locations: Garden Grove

Over 450 Long Island companies have hired our graduates in the past year.

Hunter Business School was founded in 1972 for the purpose of providing quality career training through intensive and innovative programs.  Hunter Business School’s mission is to provide students with the opportunity to receive a high quality education for the career best suited to their ability, interest and ambition.  We are an educational environment characterized by high expectations and staffed by professionals who are knowledgeable, compassionate, creative, supportive and effective.

Programs:

  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Billing Specialist
Locations: Medford
The College of Health Care Professions is a great place for working adults to enhance their current careers, or help themselves find new career pathways to better lives. We also train high school graduates to enter in the exciting high demand Healthcare industry.

Our programs are focused and centered on empowering you with the skills you need to enter the expanding and rewarding Health Care Industry. Learn only what you need to gain employment in your particular field, so you can get certified and enter the job market faster.

Programs:

  • Medical Assistant-Cert
  • Dental Assistant Certificate
  • Medical Coding & Billing-Health Information Technology Cert.
Locations: San Antonio

Get hands-on training with Remington College. We offer diploma and associate and bachelor's degree programs in business, criminal justice, culinary arts, health care, and cosmetology at our campuses in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas — plus some courses are offered online.

Programs:

  • Diploma in Medical Assisting
  • Diploma in Pharmacy Technician
  • Diploma in Medical Billing and Coding
Locations: Garland
The ITT Technical Institutes offer programs in some of today's hottest technical areas. With over 100 locations nationwide and several online programs available, the ITT Techs are one of the leading providers of technology education. Each ITT Tech offers convenient class schedules and Career Services are offered to help you find a job.

Programs:

  • AS - Medical Assisting and Administration

San Joaquin Valley College is an accredited private junior college committed to the professional success of its students and graduates.
Founded in 1977, SJVC has campuses located throughout California-including an Online division and offers a variety of accelerated Certificate and Associate of Science degree programs in the business, medical and technical fields.

 

Programs:

  • Degree - Medical Assistant
  • Certificate - Medical Assistant
  • Degree - Medical Office
Locations: Lancaster

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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