What is a Medical Assisting Program Like?

Most medical assisting programs are associate’s degree, certificate or diploma programs. They usually last from several months to up to two years, and are taught at medical colleges, career schools or career training institutes. The subjects taught are focused on the real-world skills necessary for the profession, rather than general education or “filler” classes, so students can be prepared to enter the profession of medical assisting in a relatively short amount of time.

Medical Assisting Course Structure

Most programs include a classroom segment, a hands-on clinical segment, and an externship where students apply the skills they’ve learned in a live, clinical setting.

The subject material can include courses like:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Patient care and Communication
  • Pharmacology
  • Radiology
  • Microbiology
  • Medical insurance practices
  • Medical bookkeeping
  • Cardiopulmonary procedures
  • Laboratory procedures
  • Endocrinology
  • Medical administrative skills

More detailed information on medical assisting courses can be found at Medical Assistant Classes. Course content can vary slightly from school to school, so similar subjects may have different names, and vice versa. It’s a good idea to talk thoroughly with counselors to find out what subjects are covered by a program.

In addition to classroom training, many schools make use of a simulated doctor’s office, where students learn and practice minor medical tasks such as checking vitals, performing small tests and practicing bedside care. These classrooms are often equipped with up-to-date medical equipment, which students are also trained on.

Medical Assistant Externships

After completing the classroom and laboratory portions of a medical assisting program, students usually participate in a clinical externship, where they work for a certain number of work hours in a hospital or other medical facility. They perform all of the duties performed by fully employed medical assistants under the direct supervision of a nurse, doctor or other manager, who then reports their progress to the class instructor to help determine their final grade.

Externships usually last at least 160 clock hours, or about a month.

Click here to find medical assistant training programs in your area now. You can also see our list of popular medical assisting schools.

Career Placement

Upon graduating, medical assistants can be eligible for their school’s career placement service, if the school offers it. Sometimes a medical assistant will stay on as an employee at their externship site. If this is not the case, and the school does not offer career placement services, medical assisting jobs can be found on any job board. See our article on where to find medical assisting jobs. A step-by-step guide to getting medical assistant training and finding employment can also be found at How to Become a Certified Medical Assistant.