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Medical Assistant Certificate Vs. Degree - What's The Difference?

Medical Assistant Certificate Vs. Degree

Medical assistants perform crucial day-to-day tasks that keep doctors’ offices running and patient information updated. Their responsibilities range from clinical to administrative; working with patients and their families, taking vitals, running tests, preparing a patient for tests/procedures, cleaning exam rooms, and maintaining patient files.

There are generally two ways to become a medical assistant, you can enroll in a certificate training program, or an associate degree program. Both will prepare you for your career in medical assisting. The course you choose just depends on what works best for your lifestyle and goals. Let’s review both options.

Getting an Associate Degree vs a Certificate in Medical Assisting

The most notable difference between a certificate program and an associate degree program is in both their duration and courses. In addition, certificate programs are typically the more affordable option; accruing less student debt than traditional universities/community colleges.

Associate Degree in Medical Assisting

Receiving an associate degree in medical assisting may be a great choice for you if you are someone who would like a more well-rounded education involving subjects outside of those found in a typical medical assistant program.

In addition to required classes related to medical assisting, you may also take other core classes focused on mathematics, psychology, statistics, microbiology, or English.

The cost of preparing for your career in an associate degree program usually ranges between $10,000-$15,000, depending on whether or not you are out of state. In addition, many associate degree programs can be completed online, or in a hybrid classroom setting. Find a school with online medical assistant programs.

After completing your classes, you should have an understanding of the ethical and legal standards that are expected in healthcare settings. You should also feel prepared to take the AAMA exam, which is administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants, if you wish to be certified.

While certification is not typically required for employment, most employers will prefer to hire a certified medical assistant. You may also increase future career advancement opportunities and salary prospects if you earn your certification.

Medical Assisting Certificate Program

With fewer classes and a shorter program length, a certificate program is generally the more affordable option for students. If you are someone who doesn’t feel it would benefit you to take the prerequisites associate degrees require, you may find that you would prefer a certificate program.

Certificate programs cover courses only relevant to the knowledge you will need as a medical assistant. Most of the medical assistant certificate programs that we researched ranged between 20-30 credit hours. Classes include but are not limited to:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Intro to Computers
  • Medical Law and Ethics
  • Applied Communication
  • Body Function and Structure
  • MA Clinical Procedures
  • Pathology and Prevention
  • Administration and Safety
  • Pharmacology for Medical Assistants
  • Phlebotomy

After you complete your courses, you should feel prepared to take and pass the AAMA test if you wish to become a certified medical assistant.

All of the programs and schools we partner with are accredited. By enrolling in an accredited certificate program, you could be career-ready in as few as 10 months. In addition, these certificate programs can range between $2,000-$5,000 depending on your institution.

Take the First Steps!

Both associate degree and certificate programs should help you feel prepared to take the AAMA as long as they are accredited. Your decision should be based on whichever program you feel you’d enjoy the most. 

Deciding to take the first steps toward becoming a medical assistant today can bring you closer toward an exciting and rewarding career path tomorrow.

Find local medical assistant training now!

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