When deciding whether or not to pursue a career as a medical assistant, there are many things to naturally consider. Perhaps the most important and pragmatic of them is, will my schooling result in gainful employment? After all, it doesn’t make sense to pay to learn a profession that won’t result in employment.
Keep reading to learn more about landing your dream job with a top-notch medical assistant education.
If a school or program is not recognized by a nonprofit, unbiased organization, such as the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, or (ABHES), then businesses and other schools will not value courses, diplomas or degrees from that institution.
Achieving accreditation means schools and programs have met certain standards for teaching and curriculum. Schools that are accredited by nationally acknowledged agencies are listed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Post-secondary Education. The database of accredited schools is on the OPE website.
After a school or program receives accreditation, it must maintain that status by reporting on finances and thorough periodic evaluations, according to the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
It’s important to understand that the demand for medical assistants is not the same everywhere, and salaries can be relatively low starting out. However, areas with lower salaries will almost always have a lower cost of living. For example, Arizona is much cheaper to live in than New York.
While researching medical assistant programs, it’s a good idea to look at the job listings in the desired regional location when considering a school or program. The school’s career services department will be the most helpful in identifying employment opportunities for graduates through local connections.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the 2014 national median wage for a medical assistant working in a doctor’s office at $31,230. Remember, median means middle. If a region of the country does not have any openings for new medical assistants, a high salary potential won’t do much good.
Traditional vs. Online
Hands-on training and face-to-face instruction are valuable for many school subjects. Although many medical assistants spend most of their day doing administrative tasks, there are many tasks involving actual contact with patients. To replicate the clinical experience in a traditional school’s coursework, it’s common to practice drawing blood and other procedures on manikins. After all, it’s much better practice than watching videos online.
Online schools have clinical components, but a traditional school will provide hands-on training to students before sending them out to do clinical work at a doctor’s office or hospital before they graduate. Real lab training on a campus likely will give students more confidence than an online program would.
Another advantage of traditional education is relationship building. It’s more likely that students will interact with each other and their instructors outside the classroom at a traditional school. Those relationships could help students land jobs after they graduate in addition to further engaging them in their coursework.
Right School Advantages
With the ever-changing health care industry, doctor’s offices and clinics are giving medical assistants more training and responsibility. By assigning advanced tasks to medical assistants, doctors have more time to focus on diagnosing patients, says Tom Strong of the Health Affairs Blog.
Medical assistants with advanced skills find their jobs more rewarding and usually receive higher salaries. These incentives help reduce turnover, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Expanding the roles of medical assistants also has been found to enhance patient care.
By choosing a school with the highest quality of instruction, medical assistants will be better prepared to receive advanced training on the job and thrive in expanded roles. They won’t have to catch up, instead being ready to excel when presented with each new challenge.
Beyond graduation, obtaining the right certification can help medical assistants land better paying jobs. For example, becoming a medical assistant at a program like Arizona College will provide a student with a strong foundation to study for and obtain certification as a registered and certified medical assistant. But certifications can vary depending on the region. Make sure you’re researching what job requirements are like in the prospective area you’re looking to work once you’ve graduated.
Although demand for medical assistants is on the rise, so too it is with other health care professions. Working as a medical assistant can be a starting point for advancement to better paying, higher-advancement careers.
Some medical facilities such as Reedsburg Area Medical Center in Wisconsin have open positions for candidates who are either a certified medical assistant or a licensed practical nurse. To achieve greater career advancement, a medical assistant might want to pursue the higher-level designation of a registered nurse, too.
By choosing the path of medical assistant to RN, individuals likely will have a much smoother and confident transition than if they just went through nursing school. Becoming a nurse without a lot of real world experience can certainly be shocking. If a medical assistant chooses to specialize in administration, there are many possibilities for advancement into management, Elizabeth Otto wrote for eMedical Assistants.
The medical assistant field includes so many specialties. It might take an entry-level MA a little while to decide which path to take, but having a sense of which type of environment you’d like to work in and which advanced certification you’d like to pursue will make a big difference in a your career.