If a career in medical assistance interests you, you might have heard of the term “externship.”

Medical assistants are generally required to shadow their seniors during an externship within a healthcare setting.

This involves medical assistants closely observing the day-to-day tasks handled by the seniors and how to interact with patients.

Many accredited training programs for medical assistants offer externship opportunities once you complete your course. Read on to find out more about what exactly an externship is, how to find one, its benefits, and how long it usually takes.

Also read: How To Become a Medical Assistant?

What is a Medical Assistant Externship?

A medical assistant externship can help you experience what the job is like. Generally, you will have to interact with and shadow healthcare professionals and senior medical assistants.

An externship also offers the opportunity to practice what you have learned during training under close supervision.

Also read: Medical Assistant Job Outlook

Externships are also considered the best way to find out if you are more interested in the administrative or clinical side of medical assistance.

It can further help you decide which type of work setting works best for you.

Medical assistants usually work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, outpatient care clinics, and private practices, among others. Hence externships usually take place in these settings as well.

Read more about: Where Can Medical Assistants Work

How Long Does a Medical Assistant Externship Last?

There is usually a specific number of hours that a medical assistant needs to complete during an externship. The typical duration is anywhere between 40 and 100 hours, which can be divided into different combinations of hours per week, like 10 hours/per week.

Completing a medical assistant externship can take up to 2 months; however, this duration can vary depending on the requirements of the training program and the type of externship setting.

Also see: Medical Assistant Programs Cost

For instance, if you complete your medical assistant training from a community college, the typical duration of an externship is one semester.

The type of medical assistant program you choose will influence the duration of your externship hours.

Read more: How Long Does it Take to Become a Medical Assistant?

What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant During an Externship?

During an externship, there are some things you will be responsible for, apart from shadowing senior medical assistants, such as:

  • Completing Your Total Hours-
    To enjoy the maximum benefits of this opportunity, you will need to ensure that you complete the specified hours. This can vary according to the healthcare setting or type of externship.
  • Assisting Medical Assistants-
    You will get the opportunity to participate in the daily tasks, both clinical and administrative, that are handled by a medical assistant under close supervision.
  • Asking Relevant Questions-
    One of the best methods of learning and building a stronger foundation for the medical assistant role is to ask relevant questions whenever possible. This also shows your interest and passion for the field.

Also see: 12 Reasons to Become a Medical Assistant

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What Will Be Expected From You During an Externship?

As mentioned before, medical assistant externships usually occur in sensitive environments where there is an inflow of patients. Hence, there are some things expected out of an aspiring medical assistant, such as:

  • Willingness to Learn-
    Keeping an open mind and learning from your mistakes is one of the most important things that you will need to work on, as it will be expected from you. Even though it is common to make errors in judgment or mistakes when you’re just starting, you should be willing to learn from them.
  • Professionalism-
    Common workplace etiquette, such as dressing appropriately, following workplace policies, and being courteous toward the staff and patients, are also important aspects of a successful medical assistant.
  • Observational Skills-
    Even though aspiring medical assistants cannot perform regular tasks without proper supervision, they must be focused and present while shadowing the seniors.

Read: National Certified Medical Assistant NCMA

Are Medical Assistant Externships Required?

Even though externships are not necessarily required to become a medical assistant, many training programs will require you to complete an externship after you complete their course.

Even though not required, an externship is important for you to gain relevant experience as a medical assistant. This also helps you secure a job, as employers prefer candidates with some experience.

Also see: How to get Medical Assistant jobs with no experience

Are Medical Assistant Externships Paid?

Some programs offer paid externships with a varied range of wages. However, most externships are generally unpaid.

However, gaining relevant experience through externships can help you earn a higher medical assistant salary.

Also see: Cheapest Medical Assistant Program

How To Find a Medical Assistant Externship?

If you are interested in becoming a medical assistant, you might be wondering how to find an externship that’s near you.

You can find an externship by contacting your local medical assistant association. You can also contact healthcare facilities for any opportunities or talk to community colleges that offer externships.

But do you want to know what’s the best way to find an externship? Enroll in a medical assistant program that offers it. This way, you don’t have to take additional steps when you complete your training.

Also see: Accelerated Medical Assistant Program

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What Are the Benefits of a Medical Assistant Externship?

A medical assistant externship is considered to be the best for both your career and to build a strong foundational base for your experience.

Here are some benefits of an externship-

  • Gaining Practical Experience –
    Apart from theory and educational knowledge, working with patients is extremely important for medical assistants to gain relevant communication skills. An externship allows you to interact with patients, shadow senior medical assistants, and observe their interactions with patients.
  • Learning Necessary Skills-Only theoretical knowledge will get you nowhere in a dynamic field such as medical assistance. You will need to apply your theoretical knowledge in a real-world setting to become a valuable medical assistant.
  • Helping you decide if it’s the right career for you-
    You will be able to get a general idea of what a day in the life of a medical assistant looks like during an externship. This will help you decide if becoming a medical assistant is what you want or not.

See also: Is Medical Assistant a Good Career?

  • Networking opportunities- Completing an externship is one of the best ways to build networks and gain a stronger foundational base in the profession. This will help you find jobs and guidance whenever you step out of the externship and start applying for jobs.

Also see: Medical Assistant Interview Questions



1. How long does a medical assistant externship take?

The duration of an externship can vary. Generally, an externship can last for 40 to 100 hours, which means 1 or 2 months.

2. Is the medical assistant externship paid?

Medical assistant externships are mostly unpaid. Generally, you’re paid when you work in an internship.

3. Are medical assistant externships hard to find?

Typically, medical assistant externships are relatively difficult to find. If you have enrolled in a medical assistant training program, such as an online course, they could likely offer you an externship after you complete your course. Otherwise, you can also contact medical assistant associations near you.

4. Does a medical assistant externship help you get hired?

Yes, participating in an externship will bump up your chances of getting hired, as employers highly prefer candidates with some experience working with medical assistants.

5. Do you have to be certified to do a medical assistant externship?

No, you do not need to be certified for an externship.

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