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Medical Assistant
Your Comprehensive Career Guide

Medical Assistant (MA) can be an excellent entry-level job for those looking to begin a career in healthcare.

While working as an MA can be highly rewarding on its own, you can also develop a wide variety of skills and knowledge you can potentially use for future career advancement in allied health, healthcare administration, or nursing.

We’ve put together many resources to help you decide if becoming a medical assistant is right for you. Here’s what you need to know.

Smiling Medical Assistant Taking Patient History
  1. What does a medical assistant do?

    Medical assistants can adopt both clinical and administrative duties. The job description can include taking patient history, scheduling appointments, prepping exam rooms, drawing blood, or measuring vital signs. As a medical assistant you are a versatile contributor to a healthcare team crucial to keeping things running smoothly.


    FULL ARTICLE:
    What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

    Smiling Medical Assistant Reviewing Patient Chart
  2. What is it like to work as a medical assistant?

    What it’s like as an MA can depend on whether you work in the front office, back office, or lab. You could work with patients in an administrative or clinical capacity, or even perform some in-house laboratory procedures—or a little bit of everything. Every day you go to work you will be relied upon to do what is necessary to keep patients comfortable and ensure all staff can do their jobs to the best of their ability.


    FULL ARTICLE:
    A Day in the Life of a Medical Assistant

    Medical Assistant Reading Stethoscope
  3. What are the different types of medical assistants?

    There are many different types of medical assisting roles and certifications, but it generally breaks down into two categories: Clinical Medical Assistants and Administrative Medical Assistants. Picture yourself in the exam room with a patient in clinical care? You may prefer a clinical role. Those more comfortable at the front desk with excellent organizational skills may be better suited for an administrative role.


    FULL ARTICLE:
    Different Types of Medical Assistants

    Smiling Medical Assistant with Clipboard with Doctors in Background
  4. Clinical medical assistants vs. medical office administrators

    Clinical medical assistants play a more direct role in patient care, potentially responsible for taking blood pressure, drawing blood, and measuring vital signs. Medical office administrators perform clerical duties, including bookkeeping, scheduling, and other secretarial duties.


    FULL ARTICLE:
    What is the Difference Between a Medical Assistant and a Medical Office Administrator?

    Medical Office Assistant Working on Computer in Clinic
  5. What skills do you need to be a medical assistant?

    All types of medical assistants need a unique set of skills to excel in the position. You’ll need to be detail-oriented with excellent interpersonal skills—and truly enjoy working with others as the ultimate team player.


    FULL ARTICLE:
    Medical Assisting Skills: 4 Key Medical Assistant Qualities

    Smiling Medical Assistant with Clipboard Speaking with Geriatric Patient
  6. How much can a medical assistant make?

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants earn an average salary of $38,190 per year ($18.36 per hour).* Wages can vary based on the education you’ve earned, place of employment, state in which you work, and years of experience.


    FULL ARTICLE:
    How Much Can a Medical Assistant Make?

    Smiling Team of Medical Assistants in Clinic
  7. What is the job outlook for medical assistants?

    Employment of medical assistants is expected to increase 18% from 2020-2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.* It’s a good time to begin earning the education you need to qualify for a growing number of jobs. We provide extensive resources to help our students find a good job after graduation and get their careers off to a good start.


    FULL ARTICLE:
    Here’s What a Medical Assistant’s Resume Should Look Like

    Medical Assistant Resume Under a Magnifying Glass
  8. How can I become a medical assistant?

    You’ll need to get educated and certified to be in the best position to find a good job in medical assisting. The first step is to decide if the role is right for you, then choose an educational pathway to develop your skills: either a diploma or associate degree program.


    FULL ARTICLE:
    How Can I Become a Medical Assistant?

    Medical Assistant Smiling with Geriatric Patient
  9. What are the different medical assistant certifications?

    There are several types of MA certifications you might pursue based on the kind of career you’re looking for. Our medical assisting curriculums are built to help you prepare for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and/or Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certifications.


    FULL ARTICLE:
    What are the Difference MA Certifications?

    List of Medical Assistant Certifications on Clipboard
  10. The medical assistant career path: what comes next?

    Working as a medical assistant can open your eyes to many future career possibilities. You may build on your experience to pursue careers in healthcare management, health sciences, health information management, or even nursing.


    FULL ARTICLE:
    What Comes Next After Medical Assisting?

    What's Next?

What education or training do I need to become a medical assistant?

You can choose a program based on how long it takes, the certification you’d like to earn, and how it positions you for further career advancement.

Our admissions team is here to help you determine which pathway in medical assisting is right for you.

Explore Online Medical Assisting Programs

  • Program length: 10 months
  • Classes: View the curriculum
  • Credential earned: Diploma in Medical Assisting
  • Program length: 20 months
  • Classes: View the curriculum
  • Credential earned: Associate of Science in Medical Assisting Services

Frequently Asked Questions

Considering your career options in healthcare? Here are a few other types of jobs where you can potentially get off to a fast start:

  • Medical Records Technician. Medical records technicians are responsible for the recordkeeping of confidential patient information. These types of jobs have no responsibilities in clinical care.
  • Medical Billing and Coding. Billers and coders focus on healthcare revenue cycle management, concerned primarily with how patients and insurance companies are billed for healthcare services. These professionals do communicate with patients (most often medical billers) but again, play no role in clinical care.
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). CNAs, on the other hand, do not play a role on the administrative side. They work exclusively in patient care, helping patients get dressed, bathe/shower, move from beds to wheelchairs, or eat meals. CNAs more often perform tasks needed around the clock, so hours/shifts in these positions can be less predictable.
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). LPNs have a different scope of practice than medical assistants, focusing more directly on patient care under the supervision of an RN or physician. This represents a more direct career path into nursing. Learn more about the difference between medical assistants vs. LPNs.
  • Dental Assistant. Dental assistants also perform one or a mix of clinical and administrative tasks, but only in regard to dental care.

Your choice depends on the career path you’d like to pursue.

If your number one priority is finding a job as a medical assistant as quickly as possible, a diploma program may be a better choice. You can earn a diploma in a year or less when attending full-time and be ready to enter the workforce as a certified medical assistant.

If you envision medical assisting as step one on a long career path in healthcare, you may prefer to choose the associate degree program. In addition to core medical assisting courses, you will take general education classes you can transfer into a bachelor’s degree program in the future. Baccalaureate options for medical assistants include healthcare administration, health sciences and health information management. Earning an associate degree will likely only take a few months longer and position you very well for the next step in your education.

Students in the online program will take the RMA exam during their review course – which is a requirement to pass. Herzing will pay for the exam once.

Certification is not always required, but job duties may be limited in certain states if you don’t get certified.

Even if you aren’t legally required to be certified, many employers will require certification and it will make you available for more job opportunities, better pay and greater chance for advancement.

Sitting for and passing either the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam or Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam may open many more doors to start your career as a medical assistant.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the most common places of employment for medical assistants:

  • Physician’s offices
  • Hospitals
  • Offices of other health practitioners
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Retirement communities / assisted living

The online medical assisting program (both diploma & degree) feature three main components:

  1. Online classes. Much of the coursework can be completed in the online component of the program.
  2. Clinical labs. You will be required to complete two clinical courses and meet with a proctor outside of class to ensure you are mastering key medical assisting skills.
  3. Externship. Over an eight-week period during your final term you will be required to complete 180 hours of hands-on experience in a medical clinic or healthcare facility. We can guide you in your search, but it is your responsibility to find and secure an externship site.

Our goal is to fully prepare you to thrive in your new career. The clinical and externship hands-on component of the program is crucial to helping you get the experience you need to become a medical assistant right out of school.

How long it takes to become a medical assistant depends on what level of education you pursue. Partner with Herzing University and you can expect a range of 8 months–20 months to get your education, get certified and start looking for a medical assistant position, depending on whether you choose a diploma or degree program.

The following timelines are based on full-time status:

  • Associate degree: 16-20 months
  • Diploma – online program: 8 months

After earning your degree or diploma, we recommend becoming certified as a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) or Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) even if it isn’t required in your state. With a diploma/degree and a certification, you’ll be positioned well for your first job.

While practical nurses (LPN) and medical assistants often perform similar tasks, there are a few key differences to be aware of, including:

  • Educational requirements
  • Average salary
  • Scope of practice
  • Ongoing career opportunities
  • Future outlook for jobs

Learn more about the difference between practical nursing and medical assisting.

Begin to make your impact

You can begin a long, meaningful healthcare career by starting as a medical assistant. Find a rewarding job making an immediate impact, learn what it’s like to work in healthcare, discover your strengths and weaknesses, and determine the next step in your career.

As your lifelong learning partner, we exist to help you earn the education you need to succeed in medical assisting right from the beginning—and build the foundation for career success.

Learn more about our online medical assisting program options

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2021. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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