Before we explore what jobs a degree in medical assisting might offer, we need to look at what this degree involves. What levels of the degree are there? Moreover, how does the curriculum prepare graduates for employment in this field of healthcare?
Names for the degree typically consist of an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Medical Assisting or an Associate of Applied Science in Health Science. The latter is available with a concentration in Medical Assisting. As with most associate degrees, they require two years of full-time study to complete.
The AAS in Medical Assisting provides theoretical knowledge and clinical skills to handle patient care. The hands-on experience includes lab procedures, assisting with patient exams, collecting specimens, administering medication, recording patient history, and other duties.
Stratford University has three Virginia and one Maryland campuses, as well as distance learning. The school offers an AAS in Medical Assisting; the curriculum consists of anatomy, physiology, clinical procedures, medical computer applications, pharmacology, phlebotomy, and medical law.
South College has three campuses in Tennessee, one in North Carolina and one in Georgia, as well as online classes. The AAS in Medical Assisting is available online and at the Asheville, North Carolina campus. The school refers to this degree as a “1+1” program. Nine months of study qualifies students to sit for the Certificate in Medical Assisting examination. Students have the option to continue for three more quarters to earn their Associate degree in this discipline.
The South College coursework parallels Stratford’s as it includes medical billing, medical coding, patient care, taking medical histories, and collecting samples for laboratory testing. Although offered online, this program suits individuals residing near the Asheville campus. The school uses the Mountain Area Health Education Center for students to obtain practical lab experience.
An Associate of Applied Science in Health Sciences in an alternative degree to become a medical assistant, laboratory technician, nurse assistant, and related jobs in the healthcare industry. American Public University System, for example, offers this degree. The program entails 15 semester hours of General Requirements, 28 hours of Major Requirements, and 17 hours of Electives. The G.E. courses’ list has an extensive list of choices in categories as Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, History, and Mathematics. The weight of the major requirements is in biology, chemistry, anatomy, and physics.
An Associate degree qualifies a graduate to work as a medical assistant in a clinic or hospital. A typical day includes clinical procedures, administrative duties, and clerical work. Clinical procedures involve collecting blood and urines samples for the lab, assisting the physician, taking the patient’s medical history and vital signs. Administrative and clerical responsibilities include scheduling appointments, billing, and computer entries of a patient’s visit.
In hospitals, medical assistants may greet and be instrumental in the admissions process. As a clinician in this setting, the duties mirror those in a doctor’s office. The tasks would include performing basic lab tests, instructing patients on medications and special diets, drawing blood, removing sutures, and taking electrocardiograms, to name a few.
To enhance your qualifications and possibly create more job opportunities as a medical assistant, you should consider becoming certified with the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Since 1956, the AAMA has provided the medical assistants with certification, education, and networking opportunities to ensure the quality of patient care. To be eligible for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential, you must graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
If you search for medical assistant jobs at one of the employment websites, such as Indeed, you will see thousands. Currently, the reported number of openings in this field exceeds thirty thousand in the United States. The majority is in various specialty medical clinics, such as infertility, cardiology, orthopedics, cancer care, dermatology, urology, and this list continues. Some employers publish the salary range that varies from $12 to $18 an hour on average. An OB/GYN office has the annual salary at $27,040 to $29,120 with at least one year experience preferred. Employers typically may more where the cost of living is higher, for example, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that medical assistants earn a median income of $33,610 or $16.16 per hour (2018 data). The BLS paints a positive job outlook percentage of 23% – meaning 154,900 will change or turnover from 2018-2028 in this occupation.
An undergraduate degree in medical assisting has limited choices. Northern Arizona University offers a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences. The school has seven areas of Emphasis:
- Diagnostic Medical Imaging and Therapy
- General Allied Health
- Medical Assisting
- Paramedic Care
- Physical Therapist Assisting
- Respiratory Care
- Surgical Technology
By choosing Diagnostic Medical Imaging and Therapy, for example, would likely result in a higher salary. To become a Radiological and MRI Technologist, you only need an Associate degree. The BLS has this category of healthcare with a median wage of $61,240 or $29.44 per hour. Almost double what the average medical assistant earns!