There are several different types of Medical Assistant Programs. There are vocational programs in which you learn the skills needed to be a Medical Assistant but do not receive any college credit. There are also community college programs where you can either complete training and earn a certificate (No College Credit) or earn an associate’s degree (College Credit). In addition, some hospitals and care centers will have an on the job training program if they are short staffed. We will discuss all of these different options.
Medical Assistant Vocational Programs
Vocational Medical Assistant programs are a great way to get trained to be a medical assistant in the shortest amount of time. Most vocational programs last one year or less. These programs usually consist of 6 months of classroom learning, followed up by 6 months of laboratory experience.
Many high schools will offer a Medical Assistant program for high school juniors and seniors to prepare them for a career. If you fall into this age group, look into your high school vocational offerings. You may be able to get the training for free, if your high school does have this program.
If you are out of high school or have your GED, you can still look for vocational programs. Many states such as New York have statewide vocational schools. The cost of the programs is usually minor and most states have programs setup to let you take out loans or get financial aid.
Medical Assistant Programs Through Community Colleges
Most community colleges have Medical Assistant Programs. Usually, these programs have two options. The first option is the quick path, in which you can get your Medical Assistant certificate in one year. The second option is usually an Associate’s degree that will take two years but give you college credit.
The first option, the one year Medical Assistant certificate, is usually the same as a vocational program. You will have a variety of classroom learning and hands on laboratory learning. This program is geared towards teaching everything you will need to know once you are on the job.
If you think you will want to go school in the future or may want to be a nurse, I’d recommend going with the Associate’s program. Having an associate’s degree will put you above other entry-level applicants that just have a certificate. Having a degree and an extra year of knowledge will also help with getting promotions. Usually, in the associate’s program, you will do class room learning for 2-3 semesters and hands on laboratory training for 1-2 semesters.
However, if you don’t plan on going to college in the future, there are plenty of Medical Assistant job openings and you should have no problems finding a job with just the certificate.
Since most colleges have a career center, you may be provided with job placement assistance with either option. In fact, this career is in so much demand, you may have companies visiting your school prior to graduation to try and persuade you to work with them.
Since Medical Assistants are in demand, some hospitals and organizations will hire Medical Assistants without any experience. Usually, if you are hired this way, you will undergo a 1-2 month quick training program. You may get a certificate for completing the program but it is only valid for that employer. You can describe your experience and training when you look for another job but usually you can’t list it as education. If you go this option, you will most likely make less money. However, if you are planning on staying with the company, then it will be beneficial because experience on the job will help you out when finding your next job. The next employer is likely to overlook your lack of education as long as you have a two plus years of experience on the job.
Medical Assistant Programs: Which Path is Best?
If you’re wondering which path is best, it is really up to you and your personal goals. If you need to get into a position fast and don’t mind staying with the same company for several years, on the job training may be best for you.
If you want to get trained quickly but still have education to get a better job offer, then a vocational program or certificate program may be best for you.
If you think you will want to continue with college or your goals are to work as a Medical Assistant for awhile and then become a nurse, getting your Associate’s degree may be the best path for you.