What to look for in a medical assisting program

medical-assisting-is-a-rapidly-growing-career-fieldMedical assisting is one of the fastest growing fields in the United States 1- many physicians are increasingly relying upon medical assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties so they have time to see more patients. While medical assistants have a great deal of flexibility within the field of healthcare – they are needed everywhere from massage therapy clinics to hospitals – it’s important to pick a degree program that will give you the skills and experience you need to be successful.

Is the college or program accredited?

You may not realize it, but earning your medical assisting certificate or associate degree from an accredited program is extremely important. It gives credibility to your training and assures your future employers that your education met certain standards. In addition, if you wish to pursue an advanced degree in the future, your credits may not transfer if you didn’t earn them from an accredited institution.

Does it have a strong curriculum?

At the core of education is curriculum, and if the medical assistant program you attend doesn’t teach you a wide range of skills, you may have difficulty finding a job after graduation. Medical assistants are expected to perform laboratory, clinical and administrative duties, so make sure the program trains you in all three areas. You want to be prepared when you hit the job market!

Does it offer hands-on experience?

High-quality medical assisting programs will require you to complete an externship, so if the college you’re considering doesn’t offer that level of hands-on experience, you’ll want to look somewhere else. Externships are essentially short-term internships, and give you the opportunity to put the skills you’ve gained over the course of your program to the test.

What is the cost of tuition?

While tuition certainly shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when deciding where to go to college, it is something to think about. It’s a good idea to look into what sort of financial assistance is offered at each college you are considering, and whether any scholarships are available. Because medical assistants are in demand, your future employer may offer a tuition reimbursement program.

Do I need a four-year degree?

If you’re looking to enter the job market as soon as possible, you don’t want to be entering a program that will take four years to complete. Ideally, the college you choose will offer both certificates and associate degrees in medical assisting, so you can choose what’s right for you.

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Handbook. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm