Associate’s degree programs for medical students are still relatively rare. Because most employers are happy to hire applicants who hold certificates in medical assistance, the associate’s degree seems superfluous to most students, since it is unlikely to increase their earning potential. Plus, earning an associate’s degree requires two years of full-time study, and students will take more rigorous coursework than students who are enrolled in certificate programs. However, the medical industry is growing and national attention has been turned to job opportunities in health care, so more and more people are pursuing entry-level positions, and the more training and education a person has, the more likely he or she is to qualify for these careers, especially in the most competitive urban areas.

Earning Associate’s Degrees for Medical Assistants

While earning an associate’s degree in medical assistance, students will take several general education requirement courses. These will vary depending on school, but usually include some kind of math courses (unless the student has satisfactorily met math requirements through comparable high school classes), English or composition to help students develop written communication skills, and possibly a foreign language course. Some schools require that community college students take career or study skill development classes to help them plan accordingly and help them succeed in school and after.

A student who is seeking an associate’s degree in medical assisting will take many of the same training courses as a student who is seeking a certificate. They will study diagnostics, medical terminology, pharmaceuticals, general treatments and medical procedures, as well as clerical subjects like insurance processing, medical transcription, and medical coding and billing. Administrative classes are also offered through some programs, as sometimes medical assistants are hired to manage health care offices. However, as part of an associate’s degree program, students will also be expected to take courses in general sciences, including chemistry, biology, physiology, and anatomy. Many students find these classes difficult, but community colleges generally offer support services to students who are struggling academically.

Using an Associate’s Degree for Medical Assistants

A graduate of a medical assistance associate’s program will apply for and be eligible for the same jobs as a person who has a certificate in medical assisting, and some applicants for the same position may have no experience or education beyond high school at all. However, the main benefit that associate’s degree graduates have over certificate holders is the potential to pursue further study. Students may be able to transfer many of their credits to a university and earn a bachelor’s degree in a medical field- such as nursing, healthcare administration, physiology, or pharmacology- in only a couple of years, saving them thousands of dollars and greatly improving their career prospects. (California Medical Assistants Association)