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


In this article you'll learn about the differences between a certified medical assistant training program and an associate degree program in medical assisting. The major difference (besides time) being that associate degree programs are about twice as long and more comprehensive.

Medical Assistant Certificate

Upon completion of an accredited medical assistant certification training program, you’ll be eligible to take the AAMA exam. When you pass the AAMA exam, you'll have earned your certified medical assistant (CMA) certificate. Most medical assistant certificate programs we researched were between 20-30 credit hours.

Courses In A Medical Assistant Certificate Program

When taking a medical assistant certificate training program, you will encounter courses such as:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Introduction 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

A short term medical assisting certificate training program through a medical trade school or technical college can cost between $2,000-$5,000. That program will possibly include electronic lesson books, supplements, instructor assistance, and career support for graduates.

An accredited all-online medical assistant certificate training program that you can take at your own pace (within reason) also starts around $1,500 and goes up from there.

Medical Assistant Associate Degree

During your medical assistant degree program you’ll see all the courses listed above and more. The different programs we researched were generally about 57-65 credit hours, though some are shorter. When you've completed an associate degree program, you'll be able to perform the clinical and administrative functions required of a medical assistant. You'll understand ethical and legal standards in healthcare settings. And you should be able to exhibit professional behavior, as defined by the healthcare industry.

Courses In A Medical Assistant Degree Program

Beyond the courses you’d take during a certification training program, while attending an associate degree program you may also encounter ones like:

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Business Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Microbiology

Depending on whether you are a state resident or not, a two-year associate degree program through a private or state college can cost $10,000 to $15,000 or more. Many of these programs are hybrid, meaning they can be completed partially online and partially on campus.

There are a few additional costs involved with medical assisting programs, such as school supplies and classroom materials. Another additional cost is the certification exam given by the AAMA, and that costs about $250.

If you want to learn about a medical assistant program directly from a school, use the zip-code search application found on all pages of this website.

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