It is possible to become a Medical Assistant with a high school diploma or GED. Some employers are willing to provide on the job training; but, employers are beginning to prefer those who have postsecondary Medical Assistant education. Community colleges, technical and vocational schools offer certificates, diplomas or Associate Degrees in Medical Assistant education. These programs typically are 1-2 years in length (certification programs often are completed in less than 12 months).
Clinical or Administrative Medical Assistant
There are two tracks to becoming a Medical Assistant. Clinical Medical Assistants may be required to assist physicians in taking patient histories, vital signs, obtain laboratory specimens and/or administer injections under the direction of a physician. These tasks may be in addition to providing office assistance in patient scheduling, billing and reimbursement and maintaining medical records. Administrative Medical Assistants have a more office procedural focus; but, need to have a knowledge of medical terminology, diseases and ICD coding (International Classification of Diseases).
Those wanting to become a Medical Assistant with a high school diploma, would be well advised to have a background in computers, biology, anatomy, chemistry and business concepts. Medical Assistants serve a variety of roles in a physician or medical office and may be called on to provide clinical as well as administrative tasks.
Courses For Administrative Assistants
Courses will vary from school to school, but there are core courses which will be found in most certificate, diploma or Associate Degree studies. Some of the more common courses may include:
Medical Assistants are required to use English correctly both verbally and written; and, many programs require study in English Composition.
A general education of connective tissues, nervous tissues and muscular tissues.
Medical Law and Ethics
This is a specialized study which will include training in HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act), state and federal regulations regarding patient care and professional standards.
Coursework in this area will include studies in proper techniques in taking vital signs, drawing blood samples, taking accurate patient histories, etc.
These courses will acquaint the student with phrases and descriptions to understand and communicate specific healthcare phrases and procedures.
Electronic Health Records
This coursework will prepare you to maintain accurate patient records using computers and specially designed computer programs to record and track patient information. These records include clinical and nonclinical information.
Pathophysiology studies both how conditions and diseases develop and how they affect the human body.
Medical Insurance Coding
This study will review the proper use of ICD codes which are used in describing a patient condition and to submit proper billing and insurance reimbursement.
This coursework will familiarize students with common drugs and the appropriate uses, effects and types of forms drugs may take (injection, pill or liquid).
While most of these courses may be offered online, Clinical Medical Assistant programs may require externships. Externships are non-paid positions working in a medical clinic under the supervision of a physician. There are no externships required for Administrative Medical Assistants, but students may be required to complete a capstone project.
Best Medical Degrees has published 20 Most Affordable Online Medical Assistant Certificate and Diploma Programsand 15 Best Online Medical Assistant Associate Degree Programs which should help you in your school search.