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Degree Overview: Associate of Science (A.S.) Degree in Medical Assisting

Majors Overview February 20, 2014

Those interested in joining the medical assistant career field can get the education and training needed from an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree program in medical assisting. Students can also be prepared for professional certification, as well.

A.S. Programs in Medical Assisting

Schools typically provide these degree programs as Associate of Science degrees in medical assisting (or assistant); students enrolled are provided with the knowledge and skills necessary to pursuing entry-level careers as medical assistants. Technical schools and community colleges typically offer these programs. Students also learn to work with patients in non-clinical and clinical capacities under the supervision of healthcare professionals such as doctors among others. Students usually complete Associate of Science medical assistant degree programs within two years. Coursework usually includes a clinical lab study or an externship, in addition to classroom lectures. Recruiters in the medical assistant career field prefer graduates of programs that carry the accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria to the Associate of Science degree programs in medical assistant typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. They should have a good understanding of college-level English composition and math. Some programs require students to complete core or rudimentary coursework before they are allowed to complete major coursework in medical assisting.

Coursework

Students enrolled in Associate of Science in Medical Assistant degree programs are taught about basic medical procedures and healthcare principles, in addition to clerical or office-related duties. Certification exam study may also feature in such coursework. Coursework commonly covers subject areas such as:

•Medical insurance and billing
•Medical ethics and laws
•Pharmacology
•Medical coding
•Medical administration
•Clinical lab procedures
•Anatomy and physiology
•Computer applications
•Medical terminology

Job and Wage Outlook

A job growth of 34% has been predicted in the medical assistant career field during the decade from 2008 to 2018, making it one of the fastest-growing industries (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Medical assistants provide assistance in the primary care of patients, thereby allowing doctors to treat more patients than usual. More job opportunities are expected to result on the back of technological advances in the industry combined with an aging population.

Income levels of medical assistant can vary according to their geographic location, and the nature of the employer, in addition to the knowledge and skills these professionals have. Nearly two out of three medical assistants are employed in physician’s offices. In 2012, medical assistants took home an average annual wage of $29,370 (BLS), with the top ten percent of these professionals earning $41,570 or more annually. Alaska was the top-paying state in the country where assistants earned an average annual wage of $37,750.

Continuing Education and Certification Choices

Often employers in this field prefer candidates with professional certification. Medical assistants can seek certification from agencies such as the American Medical Technologists and the American Association of Medical Assistants, among others. Typically, passage of an exam combined with educational qualifications would suffice to earn such certification that has to be renewed after five years through continued education in various areas including general medical, clinical and administrative assisting. Continued education can enhance the career prospects of medical assistants into other management or medical areas.

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