Medical Assistant Schools, Career Outlook & Salary Info
Working as a medical assistant means handling a variety of tasks on a daily basis. Medical assistants work in many different healthcare settings as they assist medical professionals. The positive job outlook and simple educational requirements draw many to this career. It offers the chance to help others feel better without spending thousands on an education.
Part of our medical assistant section includes a highly researched list of medical assistant programs that can be taken online. We also offer general information about the medical assisting career, such as career outlook, salary information, and the typical daily duties of a medical assistant. Our goal is to help you succeed and make an educated decision should you decide to embark on this exciting career choice.
Top Online Medical Assistant School Choices
Many technical and community colleges offer medical assistant certificate programs. They may also offer two year programs to earn an associate’s degree in the field. These programs usually include both lab and classroom work. The top four schools with medical assistant programs include:
- Ultimate Medical Academy
- Herzing University
- Penn Foster Career School
- Southern Crescent Technical College
Ultimate Medical Academy offers both online and on campus courses. Their campuses are located in Tampa and Clearwater, Florida. They offer diploma and associate degree programs for medical assistants. Completion of the programs prepares students for clinical and administrative environments. They are also ready to take either the RMA or CMA exam.
Herzing University has campuses in eight states along with online courses. They offer a medical assistance certificate program to prepare students for administrative and clinical environments. Students are also prepped to take the RMA exam.
Penn Foster Career School offers online courses for students to complete an associate’s degree in medical assistance. Over 75% of the required credits are focused on medical assistance while the rest are for general study. Students are prepared to take both the RMA and CMA exams upon completion.
The Southern Crescent Technical College is located in Griffin, Georgia and offers two campuses in the area. Their flexible on site schedule sets them apart from many other colleges. They offer medical assistant courses both day and night during the week and during the day on weekends.
All four of these schools offer financial aid programs to those who qualify. Some job assistance may be available, but not guaranteed. Al of these programs take from less than one year to two years to complete. Online programs are popular with medical assistant students as these offer more flexible schedules for those who may be working in another job. Both online and traditional classes are just as effective for entering this field.
Medical assistants do everything from office work to minor medical services. Their full responsibilities vary based on training, certifications and employer. They are usually the first people a patient sees when entering a medical office. Many start out with mainly office work such as answering phones, directing patients from the front desk and ensuring paperwork is filled out correctly.
Over half of assistants worked in physician’s offices as of 2012. They are also commonly found in hospitals, nursing homes and other types of healthcare facilities. The majority work full time, but part time positions are available. Overtime, night shifts and weekends are sometimes required if the facility is open longer hours or 24/7.
Medical assistants with proper on the job training or additional education may also take care of tasks such as giving injections, drawing blood and recording medical histories. Those working with specific types of physicians may also have other responsibilities.
Those working in the industry rate the stress level as above average with a below average chance for promotions. Some state that the best chance of getting a position or promotion is through volunteering, networking and gaining certifications. The job can be fast paced depending on the employer. It is possible to advance to higher positions over time such as administrative roles or nurses if they seek additional education.
The career outlook for medical assistants is expected to grow much faster than many other occupations. A projected growth rate of 29% is anticipated between 2012-2022 due to the aging baby boomer population. The additional need for healthcare means medical professionals have a greater need for assistants to handle administrative and some clinical duties. This frees up physicians’ and doctors’ time to see more patients daily.
Federal legislation has also increased the number of people who have access to healthcare. This also increases the demand for medical assistants. As many as 723,700 jobs could be available by 2022. The largest demand is for assistants who can handle a wide variety of tasks and have no problem learning how to do new tasks. This is especially true for assistants who can handle the switch to electronic record keeping.
Demand is high for both general and specialty medical assistants. Adding new skills through volunteering, certifications and education can increase the chances of finding a position in this field.
The average yearly salary for a medical assistant ranges between $21,080 and $41,570. The average is $29,370 with factors such as employer, location and experience determining whether a person makes more or less. Salaries have been gradually increasing over the past 20 years and may continue with this trend. It is possible to earn additional income through overtime and small yearly bonuses.
The highest paying positions are located in several metropolitan cities including Oakland and San Francisco, California and Champaign, Illinois. Neither of these states are within the top five highest paying. The average annual salary for medical assistants is highest in the following states and areas:
- Alaska – $39,900
- District of Columbia – $37,800
- Massachusetts – $37,210
- Washington – $35,330
- Hawaii – $34,780
The lowest paying states include:
- West Virginia – $24,360
- Alabama – $24,860
- Oklahoma – $25,280
- Mississippi – $26,000
- Louisiana – $26,560
These are only average salaries for these states. Specific cities and employers may pay more or less. Choosing employers in the insurance and personal care industries often pay higher wages than the more common jobs in hospitals and physicians’ offices. Jobs are less plentiful in these higher paying industries, but demand is still high.
Salaries do vary and choosing the right employer, area and industry are key to earning the highest amount possible. Training and continuing education are also vital to boosting yearly earnings.
Training And Education
The majority of medical assistants enter the field with either a high school diploma or applicable certificates from community colleges, universities and training centers. Both methods do require some on the job training. Those entering with a high school diploma only will be required to go through more training than those who do have additional education. Most should expect at least two to three months of training.
It usually takes about a year to complete a certificate program. These can take slightly longer depending on the student’s schedule. Employers often prefer hiring candidates with the additional training as they can start working independently quicker, saving the employer time and money.
High schoolers wishing to get a head start and skip the extra training should consider taking as many courses in chemistry, biology and anatomy as possible to gain general medical knowledge. They should also understand how to use computer systems for electronic record keeping.
There is no nationwide educational requirements to become a medical assistant. Some states do require individuals to complete an approved training program and pass an applicable exam. Those who want to do more advanced tasks are required to have extra training which may include formal education and added certifications. These generally include doing more clinical tasks such as taking X-rays.
There are five common types of certifications a medical assistant can have, including:
- Certified Medical Assistant
- Certified Medical Administrative Assistant
- National Certified Medical Assistant
- Registered Medical Assistant
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
Each has its own unique courses and requirements. All allow an individual to work as a medical assistant in most industries. It is not required for someone to hold multiple certifications to work in this field.
Some medical assistants begin with only a high school diploma and seek their certificate while working. This boosts an individual’s chances at earning higher salaries and moving into better positions.