If you want to become a medical assistant, that’s great. You’ve chosen an honorable profession! But we all know that there are realities when it comes to medical assistants—it’s a job in the medical world, and jobs in this arena require proper eduction and training.
Here’s the good news. Medical assistants are not confined to a lengthy educational program like other traditional degrees. Becoming a certified medical assistant has become increasingly flexible in recent years with not only classroom training, but online and hybrid courses designed to fit the need of the student.
Technical or vocational certificates usually take less than a year to complete and may be a good option if you are looking to enter a specific field, such as medical assisting. There are many program options to choose from and discovering what will work best for you is important before you begin your scholastic journey.
Perhaps you desire a “fast-track” option so you can start working sooner rather than later? If so, you can become a medical assistant in as little as six weeks if you choose the right program and make sure your lifestyle is in sync with the program you decide is best for you.
What Is a Medical Assistant?
A medical assistant works directly under the physician’s supervision and works in a health care setting such as a hospital, doctor’s office, or any other health care organization. They assist in the day-to-day operations of the organization.
Medical assistant duties and responsibilities vary depending on the specialty and needs of the facility. The role of a medical assistant can include but is certainly not limited to:
- Assisting physician, clinician, nurse, lab technician, medical technician, etc. during office visits and/or procedures
- Working with patients and their families
- Working with insurance companies regarding patient services
- Entering patient information into the electronic health system (each office has their own program) to document patient demographic information such as: name, date-of-birth, address, phone-number, type of insurance, etc.
- Entering information into electronic patient charts such as: reason for visit, symptoms, vitals (blood-pressure, weight, height), current medications, allergies, family medical-history, personal medical history
- Performing blood-draws through learned phlebotomy techniques, administering injections, performing EKG’s, and other ancillary tests as specified by the physician
- Preparing exam room for patients and stocking rooms with supplies
- Answering phones, scheduling appointments, verifying insurance, obtaining pre-authorizations for medical services
For more information, please read our article entitled: What are the duties of a medical assistant?
Finding the Right Program
Usually, the more training and education you have, the higher you can expect your salary to be.
There are several factors to consider when you are trying to find the right medical assistant training program. First, look at your availability. Can you commit to a lengthy program or do you need to quickly enter the job market?
Second, do you thrive when there is personal instruction or are you disciplined enough to take online courses with little guidance and/or interaction with instructors and other learners?
Third, can you grasp learning materials within a condensed amount of time? Asking yourself these questions when you are looking for a training program can help identify which option is right for you.
The online program allows students to complete their courses online. It is up to the student to log in every day, complete the course work, and test over the learned material. You have the flexibility to fit school into your schedule and you can work at your own pace. This makes it possible for students to obtain their certificate in as little as six weeks while other students may take longer to finish the course.
Various other online programs have set due dates for the material and an assigned amount of time to complete the course (6 weeks, 8 weeks, 10 weeks). Most programs can be completed in under a year. Online learning doesn’t provide a face-to-face learning environment, you must consistently stay self-disciplined and manage your time effectively, and it may be more difficult to grasp new ideas and concepts without a teacher to guide the way.
The offline medical assisting program, and probably the most traditional method, is taught in a classroom setting. You gain hands-on experience with other classmates while experts in the field teach and train you for job-specific duties.
Students have face-to-face instruction and class is held on certain days at certain times. You are responsible to go to class and learn the material just like the online program; however, you must physically be present to get credit for your work. This traditional setting does not provide as much flexibility as the other options and you spend more money and time commuting to and from classes.
The hybrid medical assisting program combines online studies with classroom studies. A portion of the material is taught online and the other portion is taught in class. This enables you to have more flexibility than traditional, offline programs, yet does not take away the opportunity to personally interact with instructors and other students.
Hybrid classes are a great opportunity for you to easily transition into all online courses as you get used to the online program. You’re still able to get classroom instruction with other students and face-to-face time with your professor while also being able to submit assignments online.
Time and Education
Completing a medical assisting program is possible to do in six weeks if you want to earn your vocational certificate quickly and land a career in the medical field! The education needed to become a medical assistant can be as flexible and attainable as you allow it to be.
Because medical assisting programs are designed to teach job-related skills, you can learn how to become a certified medical assistant in as little time as it takes you to complete your coursework!
Time: Pros and Cons of a Six Week Course
While there are numerous benefits to completing a six-week course, there are also drawbacks you should be aware of. For instance, it’s possible that if you take the accelerated path towards to becoming a medical assistant, you run the risk of you not being as prepared to work on the job as others in your field who went to school for a year.
Keep in mind that you will earn a certificate upon completion of the course no matter how long or short the program is; however, it is important to remember the quality of education and training is important to employers in the job market.
Education: What programs are successful?
Finding a medical assistant program can be overwhelming as you sort through various available options. Local colleges, vocational and technical schools and even some universities offer a wide selection of programs.
You can either go directly to the campus and speak to someone about enrollment or you can enroll online by submitting your information. A school representative will usually call you and give you information about their programs and how to start the enrollment process.
A reputable school will offer sound advice on enrollment, program details, tuition costs, testimonials and references of other students who have successfully completed the program. You should make sure that any school you invest your time and money in is accredited and offers you a program that will prepare you for certification in your specific field.
Reputable schools, whether online, offline, or hybrid, will collaborate with agencies that certify medical assistants. A few examples are:
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association
- Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association
Becoming a medical assistant in 6 weeks is a daunting task. But if you’re up for the challenge, jump right into it. So long as you feel properly prepared when classes conclude, definitely go after this challenge if you feel it makes you happy.