Medical Assisting Career Guide

Medical Assistants play a vital role in the healthcare system serving as invaluable members of healthcare teams. They contribute to the smooth functioning of medical facilities by performing a wide range of tasks.

  • Medical Assistants perform various clinical tasks to support patient care. Their clinical responsibilities contribute directly to patient care and aid in the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of patients.
  • Medical Assistants handle various administrative duties in healthcare settings. By efficiently managing administrative tasks, Medical Assistants help ensure overall efficiency and organization of healthcare facilities.
  • Medical Assistants play a crucial role in patient education and support. By delivering clear and accurate instructions, Medical Assistants empower patients to take an active role in their own healthcare and improve their overall well-being.
  • Medical Assistants often serve as a bridge between patients, healthcare providers, and other healthcare professionals. Their coordination efforts contribute to improved patient experiences and comprehensive healthcare delivery.

The importance of Medical Assistants’ contributions cannot be overstated. Their multifaceted role helps healthcare teams operate efficiently, providing quality patient care and enhancing overall healthcare delivery. Their clinical skills, administrative proficiency, and patient interactions are essential components in delivering comprehensive and compassionate care to individuals and communities. Medical Assistants are invaluable team members who support the healthcare system by facilitating effective communication, ensuring accurate documentation, and assisting in providing optimal care to patients.

Clinical Medical Assistants
  • Take and record patient vital signs, such as blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and respiration rate.
  • Assist with patient examinations and procedures, including prepare and sterilize medical instruments and equipment.
  • Collect and prepare specimens for laboratory testing, such as blood or urine samples.
  • Administer medications as directed by healthcare providers and document medication administration.
  • Perform basic laboratory tests, such as urinalysis or glucose testing.
  • Conduct electrocardiograms (ECGs) and prepare reports for interpretation by healthcare providers.
  • Assist with minor surgical procedures, including wound care and suture removal.
  • Provide patient education on self-care, medication instructions, and post-procedure care.

Administrative Medical Assistants
  • Greet and check in patients, verify patient information, and update patient demographics.
  • Manage phone calls, schedule appointments, and handle patient inquiries.
  • Handle insurance forms, billing, and coding procedures for reimbursement purposes.
  • Maintain and organize patient files, medical records, and other administrative documents.
  • Assist in medical office management tasks, such as inventory management and ordering supplies.
  • Transcribe medical reports, correspondence, and other clinical documentation.
  • Coordinate referrals to specialists and other healthcare providers.
  • Assist with insurance pre-authorizations and processing claims.
  • Collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure efficient patient care coordination.
  • Update and maintain electronic health records (EHRs) accurately and securely.

Medical assistants contribute to patient safety by ensuring accurate documentation, verifying patient identities, and maintaining a safe and clean environment.



Medical assistants handle patient information and electronic health records (EHRs) with discretion and adhere to legal and ethical requirements, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).



Medical assistants are responsible for implementing infection control practices to prevent the spread of infections by adhering to precautions, such as hand hygiene, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and maintaining a clean and sterile environment.



Medical assistants uphold medical ethics by maintaining a high standard of professionalism, integrity, and ethical conduct. They demonstrate respect for patient autonomy, dignity, and confidentiality. Medical assistants follow ethical guidelines when handling sensitive issues, maintaining professional boundaries, and ensuring non-discriminatory and unbiased care for all patients.



Medical assistants provide information to patients regarding their conditions, treatments, medications, and preventive care. Medical assistants may assist in explaining medical procedures, demonstrating the use of medical devices, and providing resources to help patients make informed decisions about their health.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a degree is not a requirement to be hired as a Medical Assistant, but many employers in the healthcare industry prefer or require candidates with related certifications to show proficiency and dedication to the field.

ANU’s Associate degree programs in Medical Assisting and Administrative Medical Assisting prepare students to sit for the Clinical Medical Assistant Certification (CMAC) exam or the Medical Administrative Assistant Certification (MAAC) exam both offered through the American Medical Certification Association. The benefit of an Associate’s degree program is that college credit can be applied to future degrees at ANU or any other university as transfer credits.

The CMAC and MAAC certifications are widely recognized in the healthcare industry, including medical offices, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings. Holding one of these certifications shows an individual’s dedication to their profession and their commitment to maintaining the highest standards in medical administration.

ANU prepares students to sit for these exams as part of their regular coursework:

Certificate programs are available in Medical Assisting and Administrative Medical Assisting for healthcare professionals who already have an associate or bachelor’s degree and want to obtain or refresh their skills in medical assisting.

Your coursework includes hands-on medical assistant training to develop the skills you need:

  • You will complete a foundational set of online medical assistant courses in anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, and phlebotomy.
  • Medical assistant training to cover areas such as taking patients’ vital signs, collecting laboratory specimens, performing routine tests such as electrocardiography (EKG), and administering therapeutic injections and vaccinations.
  • In clinical medical assisting programs, there is a clinical externship of 162 hours of real-world work experience to include caring for patients one-on-one and performing medical procedures at participating locations across the country.

ANU’s Medical Assisting program is an online medical assistant program that includes at-home labs. You will participate in clinical laboratory classes using our at-home lab kits to apply the knowledge you have learned in the classroom and build real-world skills today’s employers require. Laboratory classes are conducted through video conferencing under the watchful eye of your instructor.

Lab kit contents may include:

  • Vital sign kit
  • Anatomically correct venipuncture arm
  • Phlebotomy supplies
  • Skeleton model
  • Specimen Testing
  • Dissection of animal organs

Our hands-on medical assistant training will give you the experience and confidence to succeed in your externship and future career.

Administrative Skills

Medical assistants also need strong administrative skills to manage the front office operations and ensure smooth workflow.


Clinical Skills

Medical assistants need to possess a range of clinical skills to provide direct patient care.


Technical Skills

Medical assistants should be familiar with using various medical equipment and technology.


Interpersonal & Professional Skills

Successful medical assistants exhibit strong interpersonal and professional qualities, including:

  • Compassion & Empathy: Demonstrating empathy and compassion while interacating with patients and their families.
  • Professionalism: Maintaining a high level of professionalism, integrity, and ethical conduct in all interactions.
  • Time Management: Effective time management and organization skills to prioritize tasks and meet deadlines.
  • Teamwork & Collaboration: Ability to work collaboratively with healthcare providers, colleagues, and other team members.
  • Adaptability & Flexibility: Being adaptable to changes in healthcare environments and the ability to handle diverse patient populations.
  • Communication: Communicate effectively to patients and co-workers. projects the job outlook for Medical Assistants to grow 16% from 2021 – 2031.*

Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs) have a variety of career opportunities within the healthcare industry. Some of the potential career paths for CMAs include:

  • Medical Assistant
  • Clinical Coordinator / Patient Care Coordinator
  • Administrative Assistant / Administrative Medical Assistant
  • Medical Office Manager
  • Specialty Practice Assistant
  • Urgent Care or Emergency Room Technician
  • Medical Scribe
  • Medical Research Assistant
  • Medical Receptionist
  • Patient Relations Specialist / Patient Services Representative
  • Medical Records Assistant

Possible work settings for a Medical Assistant include:

  • Physician’s office
  • Hospitals
  • Urgent Care Centers
  • Specialty Clinics
  • Nursing Homes
  • Ambulatory Care Centers
  • Medical Laboratories
  • Community Health Centers

*Cited projections may not reflect local economic fluctuations and do not guarantee job placement.


As medical assistants gain experience and identify areas of interest, they may choose to specialize in a specific field of medicine. Specializations can include dermatology, cardiology, orthopedics, pediatrics, or any other area that aligns with their career goals. Specialization may require additional training or certifications, such as becoming a Dermatology Medical Assistant or Cardiology Medical Assistant.

Lead or Senior Medical Assistant

With experience and demonstrated competence, medical assistants can advance to lead or senior positions. In these roles, they may take on additional responsibilities such as training and supervising new medical assistants, coordinating workflow, and assisting with administrative or clinical management tasks.

Office Manager or Administrative Supervisor

Some medical assistants with strong administrative skills and leadership qualities may transition into office manager or administrative supervisor roles. In these positions, they oversee the day-to-day operations of a medical office or clinic, manage staff, handle financial and administrative tasks, and ensure efficient workflow.

Clinical or Administrative Educator

Medical assistants who have a passion for teaching and mentoring others may choose to pursue careers as clinical or administrative educators. They can share their expertise by training aspiring medical assistants, conducting workshops, or working in educational institutions.

Transition to Nursing

Our hands-on medical assistant training will give you the experience and confidence to succeed in your externship and future career and choose the path that works best for you. Upon graduation from a nursing program, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed registered nurse (RN). ANU offers an Associate’s degree program in Nursing that prepares students for the NCLEX exam.

American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA): The AAMA is a leading professional organization for medical assistants. They offer resources, continuing education opportunities, networking events, and certification information.

National Healthcareer Association (NHA): The NHA provides certifications and resources for allied healthcare professionals, including medical assistants. They offer study materials, practice exams, and career resources.

American Medical Technologists (AMT): AMT offers certifications, educational resources, and professional development opportunities for medical assistants. Their website provides access to publications, webinars, and networking events.

Medical Group Management Association (MGMA): MGMA supports healthcare professionals, including medical assistants, in practice management and career advancement. They offer education, resources, and networking opportunities.

Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals (AHCAP): AHCAP is a professional organization specifically for healthcare administrative professionals, including medical assistants. They offer resources, educational opportunities, and a network of peers.

American Medical Certification Association (AMCA): The American Medical Certification Association (AMCA) was established with the vision of enhancing the allied healthcare industry by providing national certification exams that validate the knowledge and expertise of professionals in this field.

LinkedIn Groups: Join relevant LinkedIn groups for medical assistants and allied healthcare professionals. Engage in discussions, share insights, and connect with professionals in your field. Search for groups such as “Medical Assistants Network” or “Allied Healthcare Professionals.”

Journals and Publications: Subscribe to medical journals and publications to stay informed about the latest research, healthcare news, and industry advancements. Examples include the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) or Journal of Medical Practice Management.

Local and Regional Medical Assistant Associations: Explore local or regional associations dedicated to medical assistants. They often provide networking events, educational opportunities, and career resources specific to your area. Search online or inquire with local healthcare organizations.

Conferences and Events: Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars related to medical assisting. These events offer opportunities to learn from industry experts, network with peers, and stay updated on the latest developments in the field.

What is the total length of the Medical Assisting Associate's degree program?

A full-time undergraduate student will typically take 3 courses per term and there are 24 courses in the Medical Assisting Associate degree program. Assuming you maintain good academic standing in your courses and take courses in consecutive terms, you could complete your degree in 8 terms, or roughly 16 months. If you have transfer credits or transfer experience, your length of program may be reduced. Part-time undergraduates who choose to take 1 or 2 courses per term will take longer to complete their degree. 1 course per consecutive term = 48 months; 2 courses per consecutive term = 24 months

What are the admission requirements for Medical Assisting?

For the associate degree programs:

Graduation from high school is a minimum requirement for admission to American National University for those students enrolling in an associate program. Those who have completed high school in a homeschool setting or have satisfied graduation requirements through the General Educational Development (GED) Test or a state authorized examination are also eligible for admission.

For the certificate programs:

An official transcript from an accredited college or university which evidences (a) the awarding of an associate degree, (b) successful completion of at least 60 semester or trimester credit hours or 72 quarter credit hours that does not result in the awarding of an associate degree, but that is acceptable for full credit toward a bachelor’s degree at an institution; or (c) enrollment in a bachelor’s degree program where at least 60 semester or trimester credit hours or 72 quarter credit hours have been successfully completed, including credit hours transferred into the bachelor’s degree program, will be recognized as the equivalent of a high school diploma for basis of acceptance. For colleges and universities outside of the U.S., transcripts must be evaluated by a private credential evaluation service who is a member of NACES (National Association of Credential Evaluation Services) or AICE (Association of International Credential Evaluators).

Students will sign an attestation on the enrollment application as to which of these credentials they have received.

Students enrolling in the Medical Assisting program will affirm in writing that the student has no known physical or personal limitations that will prevent the student from successfully completing the program; can lift at least 50 pounds; has reasonable vision and hearing; and has no communicable diseases known to the student.

Students enrolling in the Medical Assisting program will also be asked to affirm in writing that they understand that failing a drug screen or having a misdemeanor or felony conviction in their background may affect their ability to secure an externship site or obtain employment in their field of study.

For all Medical Assisting programs:

Students will be required to obtain immunizations and/or proof of immunity and/or tuberculosis screening as required by the individual externship sites. The immunizations may include: varicella (chickenpox), measles, mumps, and rubella, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis and influenza vaccine. Students will also be required to take a Basic Life Support CPR course and show the corresponding CPR Certification Card as part of MED202 Clinical Medical Assisting.

Hospital settings often mandate more extensive requirements than other healthcare facilities. The cost of immunizations, screening, and additional certifications is the responsibility of the student.

Can I transfer credits from another institution?

Yes, transfer credits are accepted on an individual basis and after a complete evaluation has been done. Acceptance of prior collegiate work in any circumstance should not be interpreted as a blanket policy of acceptance in all cases. The academic integrity of the institution requires that each case be judged independently. In addition, the age of the prior coursework and technology changes will need to be considered. A student must complete the last 25% of any diploma, associate degree, or baccalaureate degree program coursework at American National University. This requirement means that a maximum of 72 quarter credit hours for an associate degree may be accepted.

What topics and courses are covered in the curriculum?

Your coursework includes hands-on medical assisting training to develop the skills you need. Medical procedures training to cover areas such as taking patients’ vital signs, collecting laboratory specimens, performing routine tests such as electrocardiography (EKG), and administering therapeutic injections and vaccinations. You will also complete a foundation set of courses in anatomy, pharmacology, healthcare law and ethics, and learn how to handle administrative and clerical duties.

Are there any prerequisites or recommended prior coursework?

There are no pre-requisites or required coursework to start this program, but a passion for science and health service will be beneficial to your studies and future career.

What types of hands-on training or clinical experiences are included in the program?

Lab kits for hands-on learning are sent directly to the students’ home so that you can learn through physical touch. Instructors and coursework will guide you through the kit and the learning material. For Medical Assisting students: Clinical experience occurs during the 162-hour clinical externship.

Are there opportunities for internships or externships?

A clinical externship of 162 hours of real-world work experience to include caring for patients one-on-one, performing medical procedures, gathering patient information, and helping healthcare facilities stay organized. The clinical externship experience is a requirement for the Medical Assisting programs and not the Administrative Medical Assisting programs.

Will I be eligible to sit for certification exams upon completion of the program?

Students will take the following certification exams: CPR exam through the American Red Cross as part of MED202 Clinical Medical Assisting, Clinical Medical Assistant Certification (CMAC) exam offered through the American Medical Certification Association as part of MED298 Medical Assisting Exam Success Class, Phlebotomy Technician Certification (PTC) as part of MED298 Medical Assisting Exam Success Class, and EKG Technician Certification (ETC) as part of MED298 Medical Assisting Exam Success Class.

What career opportunities are available for graduates of the program?

Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs) have a variety of career opportunities within the healthcare industry. Some of the potential career paths for CMAs include:

  • Medical Assistant
  • Clinical Coordinator
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Medical Office Manager
  • Specialty Practice Assistant
  • Urgent Care or Emergency Room Technician
  • Medical Scribe
  • Medical Research Assistant
How much do the programs cost, and are there financial aid options available?

Please visit our tuition & fees page for the most up-to-date tuition fees per credit. The associate degree programs are 96 credits while the certificate programs are 48 credits. ANU offers a wide variety of options to help finance your education. You can apply for Federal Financial Aid, or visit our ANU-funded scholarships and grants.

What is the cost of textbooks and other required materials for the program?

ANU does not charge an application fee or technology fees. They also include all textbooks and laboratory kits and materials in the tuition fee. Lab kits will be sent directly to your home.

What are the typical class sizes?

The typical class size for a lecture course is 25 students and clinical lab sections have up to 12 students.

How is the program accredited?

The Medical Assisting Associate’s Program offered at the Salem, VA campus and its in–residence locations are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) on recommendation of the Medical Assisting Education Review Board. The address and phone number for CAAHEP is: 25400 US Highway 19 North., Suite 158, Clearwater, FL 33763; 727–210–2350.

Are there job placement services or assistance available after graduation?

The ANU Career Services team is available to coach you through the career preparation process, answering career-related questions, providing personalized feedback, connecting you to ideal resources and opportunities, and helping you stay focused on your ultimate career goal. No matter where you are in your career, you will have access to the full range of services that ANU Career Services provides.

Do Medical Assistants require a degree to be hired?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a degree is not a requirement to be hired as a Medical Assistant, but employers may prefer to hire assistants who have some formal training and are certified. ANU’s MAA program prepares students to sit for the Clinical Medical Assistant Certification (CMAC) exam offered through the American Medical Certification Association.

What is the difference between your Medical Assisting Associate degree and the Medical Assisting Certificate program?

The Medical Assisting Associate’s degree is an undergraduate degree that consists of core courses in Medical Assisting and some General Education. The student prepares for certifications in courses. The certificate program is designed for someone who already has as undergraduate degree and wants to change careers or upskill in the area of Medical Assisting. The Certificate program has fewer courses than the Associate degree and does not include any General Ed requirements.

Can I pursue further education or specialization after completing the degree?

After completing a Medical Assisting Associate’s degree program, individuals may choose to further their education in various healthcare-related fields. Some common educational paths pursued by graduates of Medical Assisting programs include:

  • Certificate programs: Some graduates may opt for shorter-term certificate programs to gain specialized skills in areas such as medical coding and billing and phlebotomy & ECG.
  • Bachelor’s degrees in: Nursing and Medical and Health Services Management.

ANU also offers an MBA in Healthcare Management for those ready to pursue a Master’s degree in healthcare.

What is the difference between your Medical Assisting Associate degree and the Administrative Medical Assisting Associate degree?

The difference between a Medical Assisting degree and an Administrative Medical Assisting degree lies in the focus and emphasis of the curriculum.

Medical Assisting Degree: A Medical Assisting degree program is designed to provide students with a well-rounded education in both clinical and administrative aspects of medical assisting. The curriculum typically covers a range of topics, including medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, clinical procedures, pharmacology, medical office procedures, medical billing and coding, and basic patient care. Students learn both the clinical skills required to assist healthcare providers with patient care and the administrative skills needed to handle office tasks.

Administrative Medical Assisting Degree: An Administrative Medical Assisting degree program focuses primarily on the administrative and clerical aspects of medical assisting. The curriculum places more emphasis on topics such as medical office procedures, medical billing and coding, health information management, medical transcription, insurance processing, appointment scheduling, and medical office software applications. While students in an Administrative Medical Assisting program may still receive basic training in clinical skills, the primary focus is on administrative responsibilities within a healthcare setting.

In summary, a Medical Assisting degree program provides a more comprehensive education that covers both clinical and administrative skills, preparing graduates to handle a wide range of responsibilities in medical settings. On the other hand, an Administrative Medical Assisting degree program specifically emphasizes the administrative aspects of medical assisting, equipping graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in medical office administration, health information management, and related roles.

Can I work while taking the courses?

ANUs distance education programs were designed with working adults in mind. Online courses offer flexibility through easy access to course materials, instructors, and video conferencing for live lectures.

How are the program's faculty selected and what are their qualifications?

American National University prides itself on hiring qualified practitioners. Medical Assisting faculty have the following qualifications: 1) Associate’s degree or higher in Medical Assisting, Nursing, or Allied Health; 2) Current certifications or licensure depending on the degree/field; 3) At least three years’ experience in a medical office or clinic; and 4) Current and competent in the MAERB Core Curriculum objectives as evidenced by education and/or experience.

What support services are available to students, such as tutoring or academic advising?

American National University provides support services to all students in: Admissions, Program-specific Academic Advising, Library services, Financial Aid Services, Career Services, and IT Help Desk.

How do I apply for the program, and what is the application process like?

To apply for any of the Medical Assisting programs, visit the website and click on the Apply Now button. Create a login account and complete the details of the application. An admissions representative will reach out to you if any other documents are needed in the application process. The whole process can take as few as 24 hours, depending on time zones and response time.

Are there opportunities for networking and professional development within the program?

American National University brings the university to our students as they study from the comfort of their own home with our High Tech, High Touch innovations. While our students do not meet in person, they do get to meet over Zoom sessions to have discussions and learn from their career-professional professors. Students do not lose on creating their own networks – if anything, students will make connections with like-minded professionals across the globe to enhance their professional networks. With our innovative online education systems, students at American National University will never miss out on important networking connections. Utilizing discussions, the services we offer, and their professors, our students have the chance to create a global network.

Are there any opportunities for international students to enroll in the program?

Yes! International students can enroll in the Medical Assisting Associate online degree program and take the courses from anywhere in the world where they can access the internet.

Are there any specific technological or computer skills required for the program?

The full description of our technology requirements can be found here:

Most laptops purchased within the past 3-4 years will comply with this list of technology requirements.

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