How to Pick a Medical Assistant Program

Angie Best-Boss is an award-winning freelance medical writer, editor and author of seven books on women's health.


When it comes to deciding on the best school for your degree or certificate in medical assisting, the homework should start before you ever enroll. These tips will help you decide which program is best for you.

Narrow the Field

There are a few things that will help you narrow down your choices right away. Ask yourself the following questions for each program you are considering. If your answer to any of them is "no," you might want to take that program off your list. There's no need to make calls and campus visits to schools that don't offer what you need.

Is the program accredited? If you want to get certified, you need to enroll in a program that is accredited either by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If your program is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam.

Does the school offer the kind of degree (certificate or associate degree) I am seeking? There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of programs. You might want to speak with an admissions counselor to figure out which is best for you.

Can I afford it? Don't just look at a school's tuition. Remember to include the cost of books and commuting. In addition, find out if financial aid is available to you.

Are classes offered at convenient times for me? If you absolutely must have distance education courses or evening classes, don't give up. More and more schools are looking to accommodate students with flexible schedules.

The CMA Exam & Job Placement

Most students who plan to take the exam to become a Certified Medical Assistant need to find a school that will prepare them for the test. Check to see what kinds of classes are offered. The following topics will be covered on the exam: patient relations, first aid, lab procedures, medical terminology, clinical procedures, office practices, and pharmacology.

There are a few questions you can ask an admissions representative to get an idea how well the school prepares its students for the CMA exam and their career as medical assistants:

  • How many of your students pass the CMA exam?
  • How do your students' scores compare to the national average?
  • What percentage of your graduates find full-time work after graduation from your program?

Other Things to Consider

Class Size. Many students prefer smaller classes, because they have more access to their instructors when they have a question or concern.

Internships. Internships give you hands-on experience and training that you can't get from a textbook.

Tutoring. It's nice to know that help is available when you need it.

Picking the right medical assistant program is very important, particularly if you plan to take the certification exam. By following these suggestions, you can better evaluate what school will help you achieve your career goals.


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