Medical Assistants are health professionals who provide support services to physicians, doctors, and other healthcare specialists. Their roles and responsibilities include both clinical and administrative tasks.
Medical Assistants work in close proximity to physicians and other similar healthcare specialists. There are many types of medical assistants, the two main ones being clinical medical assistant and medical administrative assistant.
The field of medical assistance is ever-growing and ever-evolving, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth rate for medical assistant jobs is expected to be 16%. (2021-31)
The growth and demand for medical assistants are much higher than in other occupations & industries.
If you’re here, having a career as a medical assistant has probably crossed your mind, and you want to know more.
There’s one question that might have crossed your mind, “how long it takes to become a Medical Assistant” and enter the field of healthcare?
The first step towards becoming a medical assistant involves getting the proper training; for that, you need to enroll in a training program.
Medical assistant programs or courses usually take approximately 4 to 24 months, depending on the type of course or program you opt for.
Today, we’ll give you a breakdown of the different training programs, how long it takes to complete a medical assistant program, and which program you should go for.
Medical Assisting Training – How Long Do Different Programs Last?
With multiple options for medical assistant training, you need a general understanding of the different programs to pick the one suited to your purpose.
To start your career in medical assistance, you don’t need a degree. However, a high-school diploma or a GED is required to enroll in any training program.
The fastest medical assistant program takes about six weeks, but the training programs we recommend typically last three months or longer.
You can also enroll in an associate degree program, where you get a university certificate, which employers generally love, but it’ll cost you a fortune.
There are three main ways in which you can get your medical assistant training –
- Associates Degree from a full-time technical college or university
- Diploma from community college
- Online certification courses or programs (Recommended)
Let’s look at the three, comparing the duration, cost, and type of education you will receive.
Also see: Is Medical Assistant Degree Required?
How Long Does an Associate’s Degree Take for Medical Assistants?
Duration: 2 Years
Cost: $10,000 to $30,000
Enrolling in a medical assistance program in a technical university or college will earn you an associate’s degree. The typical duration for such programs is 2 years.
An associate’s degree earned from a university or college has usually been considered the best option due to its comprehensive nature. A longer course duration allows you to obtain advanced education and brush up on your skill set before applying for medical assistant jobs.
But the main bonus of a degree program is the University Certificate that you get after completing the program. A university certificate is known to build trust in the eyes of an employer, and having a big-name university on your resume builds your credibility when you’re just starting out.
Even though earning an associate’s degree is likely to spruce up your resume and enter this ever-growing field, it comes with a significant con: High Enrollment Cost.
Associate degree programs are the most expensive option out of the three. The total costs of such a degree can range from approximately $10,000 to $30,000, which increases the probability of taking student loans.
Another disadvantage is the amount of time it takes. It takes 2 years to complete the program, where you have to attend classes on a schedule and drive to the campus every day. Traveling, accommodation & lifestyle expenses should also be considered before enrolling in an associate degree program.
Despite the main disadvantages, an associate’s degree allows you to dive extensively into advanced subjects such as physiology, clinical medicine, anatomy, and administrative assisting. Plus, you gain practical skills during laboratory classes.
However, you have to take additional classes in subjects like Biology, English, and so on. This increases the duration of the program, and these classes hold little value for starting a career as a Medical Assistant.
Also read: Medical Assistant Career Path
How Long Does a Medical Assistance Diploma Take?
Duration: 6 Months to 1 Year
Cost: $8000 to $10,000
Many community colleges offer a diploma program, the duration of which ranges from 6 months to 12 months.
A medical assistant diploma from a community college is considered to be faster than an associate’s degree, as they take approximately half the time. The enrollment cost is also significantly lower, ranging from roughly $8000 to $10,000.
But the problem of attending classes on a schedule also exists with a diploma program.
Diploma programs are faster to complete, and you avoid the additional classes typically found in a degree program.
Such programs help individuals grasp the fundamental concepts and basic medical assistant skills they need to have. This eventually makes way for a quicker entry into the medical assisting field.
How Long Do Online Medical Assistant Programs Take? [Recommened By OnlineDegree.com]
Duration: 3 to 9 Months
Cost: $1500 to $4000
Taking online courses or programs for medical assistance is the most recommended, cheapest, most convenient, and quickest way to gain the required skills and enter the workforce as a medical assistant.
There are some programs that can be completed in 4 weeks. However, accredited medical assistant programs that prepare you for the career can take 4 to 9 months to complete.
Since these classes are online and pre-recorded, there is freedom and flexibility to pace yourself according to your preference and time. An online, self-paced program has no set schedules, timetables, or extra costs such as traveling.
Also see: Medical Assistant Classes
These online programs or courses are much cheaper than the rest of the options available, and the costs required to cover the training can be expected to be somewhere around $2500 to $4000.
The only downside is that you have to verify the training program’s credibility, as some might be unaccredited. Therefore it is recommended to ensure that the program you’re enrolling in is accredited. Also, ensure that your training program prepares you to perform the standard medical assistant job duties.
Picking an online medical assistant program is recommended since you gain the skills and knowledge required to enter the medical assisting field in half the time compared to other programs.
Once you start your career and gain experience working as a Medical Assistant, you can choose to evolve your career. (Check out Additional Resources: Where Can Medical Assistants Work?)
Medical Assistants are known to upgrade into professions like Registered Nurses, physicians or allied health professionals, and so on. If you want to know if the duties of a nurse are similar to that of a medical assistant, you can read Medical Assistant vs Nurse.
Some online courses connect you with potential employers and help you find a job after you complete the course.
Also see: Medical Assistant Programs Cost
What Are the Next Steps After Completing Your Medical Assistant Training or Course?
After completing your medical assistant training or course, you will have to sit for certification exams, to become a Certified Medical Assistant.
For beginners, it is recommended that you take the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam held by the National Healthcare Career Association (NHA) or the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification exam held by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). For administrative assistants, NHA also offers the CMAA exam, and you can compare CMAA vs CCMA before applying.
After you clear the certification exams and obtain your medical assistance certification, you can contact employers and healthcare facilities.
Also read: CMA vs CNA
Here’s The Timeline for Becoming a Medical Assistant
So, you have probably wondered how to become a Medical Assistant and how long it takes to start your career. The time it takes can vary on a lot of factors, such as the program you choose to enroll in, how long it takes you to complete it, and how long it takes you to clear the certification exams, a typical timeline usually consists of:
1. Obtaining a high-school diploma or GED
A high-school diploma or GED is the main prerequisite to becoming a Medical Assistant, which usually takes approximately 4 years.
2. Enrolling in a Medical Assistant Program
This will highly depend on the type of course or program you enlist in and the time it takes you to complete the course. Earlier, it used to take up to 2 years to obtain the skill set required for a medical assistant. But with the recent rise of online training courses, you can complete your training within 4 to 6 months.
3. Getting Certified & Entering the workforce
After you finish your selected program or course and obtain the certification (Are Medical Assistant Licenses Required?), you can reach out to employers and start your career in medical assistance. This can typically take 2-4 months.
Also read: Medical Assistant Hours
So, based on that, let’s finally break down –
How Long Does It Take to Become A Medical Assistant?
If you’ve received your high school diploma and enrolled in an online training program, it can take 6 to 9 months to become a medical assistant. This includes 4-6 months to complete your online training program and 2-3 months to prepare & sit for your certification exam and to get certified as a Medical Assistant.
Also read: Medical assistant on the job training
How Hard Is Medical Assistant School?
Since medical assistance is considered an entry point in healthcare, medical assisting school or training is fairly easy compared to other healthcare careers (such as nursing).
Staying consistent with your studies and training will help you manage any hurdles or difficulties that generally come while getting your training.
Also read: Is Medical Assistant a Good Career?
A basic understanding of science and math and its concepts will be highly beneficial for medical assistant training, as the classes usually cover extensive topics such as clinical medicine, billing & anatomy.
Also see: Is Medical Assistant School Hard?
Is Medical Assistant School Worth It?
Generally, when you think of a medical assistant school, you think of a University Program or a community college program.
While entering any industry, carefully considering its pros and cons is recommended. This is true for medical assistant schools as well. Since each individual has unique life experiences, backgrounds, and interests, attending a medical assistant school is not the best decision for everyone.
Attending medical assistance school comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages, and in the article, we’ve tried to give a detailed breakdown.
The biggest disadvantages of medical assistant schools are the costs and fixed schedules. Medical Assistant schools are expensive, have a longer course duration, and you have to attend classes on a schedule.
Individuals who want to start their careers faster should explore other options, such as online training programs.
Online medical assistant programs make perfect sense for busy adults who want to start a career faster and don’t want the burden of student debt.
Employers today want their Medical Assistants to be certified, and an accredited online program can prepare you for that.
Here’s more on: How to Get Medical Assistant Jobs With No Experience
Medical assistance is evolving as the highest-growing industry compared to other professions, and the BLS has predicted a higher-than-average growth in the employment of Medical Assistants.
A career as a Medical Assitant can prove to be the ideal gateway to the healthcare industry. Not only that, medical assistant training is faster, and you can start your career within months.
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