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.

Expected Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that medical assistants typically earn about $28,000 per year. Depending on employer requirements for education, medical assistants with an Associate degree may make a higher yearly salary. The more education a medical assistant has, the more she shows her employer that she values her career and job. Overtime, medical assistants who also gain experience can expect to earn about $33,000 per year.

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

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: Dover
If you want to get into the workplace quickly or advance your existing career, Eastwick College and the HoHoKus Schools offer job-focused programs that can be completed in as little as six months. Flexible schedules and scholarships for selected students make getting your education more convenient and less expensive than you may have imagined.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting
  • AAS in Health Science
  • Licensed Practical Nursing
Locations: Ramsey

Take a step forward in your career with Bryan University. We offer a number of associate degree and diploma programs that can be completed online and on campus at our locations in Missouri, Arkansas, and Kansas.

Programs:

  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Office Assistant
Locations: Topeka
Since its beginnings in 1941, National American University has been a cornerstone of higher education, keeping pace with the ever-changing advancements of technology, while holding onto core values that provide a caring and supportive environment for all students.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting A.A.S.
  • Healthcare Coding Diploma
Locations: Richardson

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
  • DIP - Medical Assistant
  • DIP - Patient Care Technician
  • And more...
Locations: Mobile

Harrison College prides itself on truly knowing our students -- their lives and families, obstacles and motivations and their dreams and goals. We also know their potential -- that's why for more than 100 years, our mission has been to provide a supportive environment, with the expectation that their success also benefits their families, friends and communities. That's the Harrison Difference.

Programs:

  • Medical Assisting
  • Medical Assisting Diploma
  • Medical Office Assistant
  • And more...
Locations: Lafayette
Study online or on campus with Santa Barbara Business College. We offer associate, bachelor, and master's degree programs in business, criminal justice, education, information technology, paralegal studies, pharmacy technology, health care, nursing, and more.

Programs:

  • Associate of Science Medical Assisting
  • Associate of Science Medical Billing and Coding
  • Vocational Nursing
Locations: Santa Maria

Get hands-on training with Brookline College. We offer diploma and degree programs in the areas of health care, business, nursing, criminal justice, paralegal, and computer security. We understand that today's student is busy with many responsibilities, so we offer day, evening, and online classes, giving you options to fit school into your schedule.

Programs:

  • Diploma - Medical Assistant
  • Diploma - Pharmacy Technician
  • Diploma - Dental Assistant
  • And more...
Locations: Tempe

Dorsey Schools are postsecondary institutions that provide short term comprehensive training to prepare students for promising career opportunities in fields such as cosmetology, culinary arts, healthcare and skilled trades.

Programs:

  • Patient Care Technician
  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Administration and Billing
Locations: Pontiac

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 Assistant Certificate
  • AOS Medical Assisting - Management Concentration
  • AOS Medical Assisting - Clinical Concentration
  • And more...
Locations: Columbia

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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