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Medical Assistant Programs – How to Evaluate

Medical Assistant ProgramsOnce you have made a medical assisting career choice, there are still several decisions you are going to need to make as part of evaluating the type of training program that might be right for you. It’s important that you take some time and think about what you are looking for. Plan ahead so you have a good road map of what you are looking for. It will make finding the right program a lot easier.

Let’s start with some of the basic decisions you’re going to have to make to evaluate medical assistant programs. Taking some time to think through what kind of program will best suit you will pay huge dividends down the road. You’ll be glad you made the effort to get off on the right foot.

find the right programSpecialty

Think about the kind of work you want to do. Within the medical assisting field there are numerous specialties. Do you want a clinical emphasis or an administrative focus?  There are medical assistant programs for each. They all provide good career paths with good job prospects all across the country.

Certificate vs. Associates Degree Program

A big question you’ll need to ask yourself is whether you want to go after a certificate or an associate degree. I always recommend getting as much education as you can but there are always practical circumstances that must be considered.

A major consideration is the time required to complete the program. An associate degree will normally take 2 years to complete where as a certificate program can usually be completed in a year or less. So how much time do you have? If you’re looking at this as just a starting point, maybe you would like to get a nursing degree or other medical degree down the road, then go for the associate degree program. It will help you down the road.

An equal consideration is the cost of the program. An associate degree will run you several thousand dollars per year. The certificate program will be much less.

While I always recommend more over less, sometimes there is only one option that is convenient in your area. If that’s the case then maybe an online program may be the way to go.


Set certification as a goal. There is no question that in today’s job market, certification is one of the most important career steps. Many medical assistants that have been working in the field for a number of years are now finding it more and more beneficial to go back and get that certification they never took time to get.

There are several routes to certification but the most recognized is the CMA certification from the AAMA. But there are other certifications offered in the industry. You should explore the options and decide at the outset which one you want to pursue. Deciding at this point will save you time and frustration later when you realize how important certification is.

With certification in mind, you need to make sure the program you select has the proper accreditation to allow you to take the required certification exam. Check to make sure that any program you select is accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). The CMA certification requires the successful completion of an accredited medical assistant training program.

Online or Campus Program

Fortunately today you have a choice in the type of program you can choose. There are both campus programs around the country as well as a number of good online medical assistant programs to choose from.

What you have to decide is which type of learning environment is best for you. There is no right or wrong answer here. One is not better than the other. It is entirely up to you.

Here are some things to consider in your decision making process. If you are working and don’t have the flexibility to attend a campus program then the online route is perfect. It allows you to complete the program on your schedule and at your pace. On the other hand, if you learn better in a classroom setting and need the discipline of a set schedule, than a campus program may be better suited for you.

Think about this carefully. It can have a huge impact on your success.

Once you have a good idea of the type of program you are looking for you can then evaluate and select the particular medical assistant school that will meet your goals.

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