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Become a Medical Assistant: Diploma vs. Degree

Posted on January 24th, 2017 by Florida Technical College

Working as a medical assistant is a rewarding career that more and more people are turning to for a better income, more balanced working hours and great job security. Careers that provide support for physicians and nurses—like medical assisting—now make up 60 percent of the health care field. This growing area of health care needs more trained professionals every day.   For a career that is actually meaningful and that allows you to help people on the job, you almost can’t beat working as a medical assistant. These professionals work alongside doctors and nurses in all kinds of medical settings to provide the best patient care. Medical assistants get patient appointments started, take vital signs and assist with procedures. It’s a rewarding career and one that you can get started in without spending four years in college. Training as a Medical Assistant: Diploma vs. Degree So, you want to become a medical assistant, but you are not sure what step to take next. Very few employers will hire someone as a medical assistant with only a high school diploma. It is possible to get hired this way and to receive on-the-job training, but it is becoming less common. You are more likely to appeal to employers by getting some level of secondary education, either a medical assistant diploma or a medical assistant degree. Here are some comparisons of the two options:   Program length. One of the most significant differences between these two levels of education is the time it takes to complete them. A diploma program will take a year or less, while an associate’s degree program takes at least two years as a full time student to complete. This is an important consideration when choosing between a degree and a diploma. Ask yourself if you can afford to spend two years earning a degree, or if you need to start working sooner. Program cost. With more credit hours, an associate degree program will cost more; therefore time is an important consideration when choosing between a medical assistant degree and a diploma, but don’t forget cost. By choosing a longer, more expensive program, you will face additional expenses in two ways: a higher program cost and a longer time before you can start earning a salary as a medical assistant. Coursework. Another difference to consider when choosing between a medical assisting degree or diploma programs is the coursework. Both will have similar courses, but the degree coursework will include more advanced topics. Both programs cover administrative skills for medical offices, lab procedures, pharmacology, medical terminology, ethics, and basic clinical and surgical procedures. The degree program will also include anatomy and physiology courses and more advanced and in-depth courses in general. Either a diploma or degree program in medical assisting should prepare you for professional certification. Not all employers will require certification or registration as a medical assistant, but getting this distinction will make you a more desirable candidate for jobs. Completing either level of training program will provide you with the knowledge you need to pass a certification exam. Hands-on experiences. Hands-on learning and practice are important parts of getting an education as a medical assistant. Whether you choose a diploma vs degree, you should be sure that your program includes a significant number of hours of hands-on practice as a medical assistant. This is the experience that will really prepare you to do the job and is something that employers like to see on resumes. Career advancement. If you think you might want to advance your career in health care beyond working as a medical assistant, you may want to carefully consider your training program. Earning a medical assistant degree will give you greater opportunities for continuing your education later. For instance if you want to earn a nursing degree after a few years on the job as a medical assistant, having that associate’s degree will put you in a better position to earn another degree as compared to only having a diploma.   Job opportunities are similar for those who earn a medical assistant degree or a medical assistant diploma. While many other things are different for these two levels of education, the level of opportunity is high for both. There are many positions available for medical assistants and there are no indications that this will change in the future. Just be sure that if you have a particular hospital or doctor’s office in mind where you would like to work, that you check to see if a medical assistant degree is required or if a diploma will suffice.   Become a Medical Assistant:A Fast-Growing Field Whether you choose a diploma vs a degree or vice versa, you will have plenty of work opportunities with training as a medical assistant. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes medical assisting as a career that is growing much faster than other jobs. The agency estimates that between 2014 and 2024 the field will grow by 23 percent and will add over 138,000 new positions. This means finding a job after graduating will be fairly easy if you take the right steps.   Health care in general is a growing field as the population of the country ages, but allied health workers, those workers like medical assistants that support doctors and nurses, are more in demand than ever. Opportunities for people with a medial assisting degree or diploma will be numerous for years to come and job security is something that you can look forward to in your new career. Great Salary Opportunities for all Medical Assistants The number of jobs available for trained medical assistants is growing, along with job security, but salaries are also worth considering. The median annual salary for a medical assistant in 2015 was $30,590. Those with a medical assistant degree may be able to earn more than someone with a medical assistant diploma, but there are likely to be variations depending on employer, years of experience, location and other factors.   According to […]