Medical Assistant Degree Programs and Training

Degree programs and training: medical assistants

Medical assistants are the infantry of the health care world, the crucial boots-on-the-ground engaged in the day-to-day business of patient care. In hospitals, clinics, and private practices, medical assistants perform a wide variety of vital administrative and clinical duties, from taking patient histories and scheduling appointments, to measuring vital signs and administering injections. While no postsecondary education or accreditation beyond on-the-job training is required to become a medical assistant, the most competitive candidates for the best jobs are generally graduates of one- and two-year certificate and associate's degree programs. The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) reports suggests that, as hospitals and clinics have moved to adopt computer-based electronic health records, demand for well-trained medical assistants with certificates and degrees has been on the rise.

Medical assistant degree programs

Traditionally, medical assistants -- not to be confused with physician assistants, who require a master's degree and are licensed to diagnose, prescribe, and treat patients -- have not been required to attain anything beyond a high school diploma. The BLS notes that high school-level course work in biology, chemistry, and anatomy, along with on-site training, can qualify candidates for jobs as medical assistants. But, as work in both the administrative and clinical areas of health care has become more challenging, employers have increasingly sought out medical assistants who have completed one-year certificate or diploma programs. Candidates who have obtained a two-year associate degree are even more highly prized. Both types of programs are offered at a wide range of community colleges, vocational and technical schools, and universities.

Larger hospitals and health care organizations often screen for candidates who have specialized training and degrees in clinical or administrative work. Some states do require medical assistants to obtain certification and/or successfully complete an exam in order to attend to clinical tasks, such as taking x-rays and administering injections. The BLS lists five types of formal accreditation for medical assistants that are recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies:

  • Certified Medical Assistant, from the American Association of Medical Assistants
  • Registered Medical Assistant, from American Medical Technologists
  • National Certified Medical Assistant, from the National Center for Competency Training
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, from the National Healthcareer Association
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant, from the National Healthcareer Association

Medical assistant training

Because medical assistants fill a wide variety of roles in the health care industry, specific areas of study and training can vary from program to program. However, the American Association of Medical Assistants highlights a number of areas that are generally covered by graduates with a one-year diploma or two-year associate degree. These areas generally include:

  • Human anatomy, physiology and pathology
  • Medical terminology
  • Keyboarding and computer applications
  • Recordkeeping and accounting
  • Coding and insurance processing
  • Laboratory techniques
  • Clinical and diagnostic procedures
  • Pharmacology
  • Medication administration
  • First aid
  • Office practices
  • Patient relations
  • Medical law and ethics

In addition to passing an exam, medical assistant certification by the AAMA requires some form of internship, or on-the-job training, in the form of a practicum, and most accredited certification and degree programs for medical assistants do include work experience in an ambulatory health care setting. More targeted course work and internship opportunities are available to students interested in areas of medical assistant specialization, including podiatry, chiropractic, ophthalmic, and optometry practices.

Career outlook for medical assistants

Salary: The BLS paints a rosy picture for candidates interested in entering the medical assistant field, where the latest numbers, from May of 2013, add up to an average annual wage of $30,780 nationwide.

Growth: Due to the increased health care demands of an aging baby-boomer population, a growing focus on preventative medical care, and the large number of administrative tasks associated with an expanding health care system, the BLS projects a much faster than average growth of 29 percent in employment of medical assistants from 2012 to 2022.

While medical assistants will continue to fill their traditional roles, aiding nurses and physicians as they tend to the needs of patients in clinical settings, scheduling appointments, and preparing blood for laboratory tests, the BLS notes that the responsibilities of medical assistants will continue to change as technological advances continue in health care, particularly as electronic data processing becomes an industry standard.


American Association of Medical Assistants, "What is a CMA?", 2014, http://www.aama-ntl.org/medical-assisting/what-is-a-cma#.VEVkBuddQhc

Medical Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm

Medical Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/OES/current/oes319092.htm

Medical Assistant Schools

Refine School Matches
Hide filters


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            3 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
            • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
            • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
            • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
            • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
            • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
            • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
            • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media
            • Students who qualify may earn credits from relevant work, military service training, or life experience through Credit by Examination Program (CLEP)
            • Offers 5 term start dates throughout the year
            • Class sizes are small, with an average 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council or Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
            4 Program(s) Found
            Get allied health training with Ross Medical Education Center. We offer programs in dental assisting, medical assisting, medical insurance billing and office administration, and pharmacy tech.
            • Financial Aid
            3 Program(s) Found
            City College , Fort Lauderdale
            • Features a community service program for students, called the Ambassador Program.
            • Offers several programs in healthcare, criminal justice, broadcasting, business administration and more.
            • Features an online system called MyPortal that allows students to check their schedule, grades, calculate their GPA, and more.
            • Has 5 Florida campuses located in Fort Lauderdale, Gainesville, Miami, Hollywood, and Altamonte Springs, with online options.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            SPEAK TO AN ADVISOR 1.844.285.6104