Medical Assistant Degree vs. Diploma

nurse comforting patient by touch hand 

In the medical field, there are many avenues for you to follow career wise. Once you’ve decided between working directly with or without patients, you will have a better idea of what career path is the best fit for you. If you would like to work with patients and become a medical assistant, you must decide whether you want to earn a medical assisting degree or diploma.

The process can sometimes be confusing, but understanding the difference between a medical assisting degree and diploma can clear things up, and help you decide based on your current situation and your future plans.

Rasmussen College Medical Assisting Diploma graduate Kristen Anderson said, “Becoming a medical assistant is a good place to start [in the healthcare field], and you are able to move forward and continue going to school if you want.”

Both a degree and diploma offer you practical and comprehensive coursework, which includes anatomy, physiology, administering injections, performing EKGs, and venipuncture. In addition, you will complete a 240-hour clinical externship designed to give you real-world work experience. Anderson recommends an individual pursuing either a medical assisting degree or diploma to first get involved with volunteer work, and says it’ll help a lot when you’re looking for your externship.

Even though there are many similarities in the programs, there are some differences.

A medical assisting associate’s degree requires approximately 30 more credits than a diploma, and can be completed in about two years. It provides you with the opportunity to study for your certification, and one day put it toward an even higher level degree, such as a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management.

In contrast, a medical assisting diploma can take about a year to complete, costs less, and could help you enter the job market as a qualified medical assistant.

Whether you decide to earn your medical assisting degree or diploma, make sure to base your decision on your future plans, your financial situation, and how soon you would like to start working. Either way, prepare yourself for a successful career providing direct patient care that has a positive and lasting impact on patients and their well-being.

Do you have tips for deciding between the two programs? If so, let us know in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.

Jennifer Pfeffer

Jennifer is a Content Marketing Specialist at Collegis Education who researches and writes articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She is passionate about learning and higher education and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.


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