Medical Assistant Trade Schools and Career

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What Is a Medical Assistant Trade School?

A trade school is an educational institution where students concentrate on clinical hands-on training in a specific field. To enroll, students have to graduate high school or be 18 years of age.

There is less emphasis on textbook learning and more on simulating real-life situations in a given occupation. A trade school degree holder can become a medical assistant, dental assistant, phlebotomy technician, Medical Coding Specialist, etc.

Students might receive a MA diploma or a certificate. It depends on the institution, course length, and the topic coverage. Programs run no longer than two years.

What Are The Differences Between Trade Schools VS. Vocational Schools and Community Colleges

Medical Assistants and other healthcare professionals opt out of the traditional four-year college degree for many reasons. Some because they cannot afford the tuition or lack the grades. Others because they value the experience gained from a trade school. Vocational schools are also a career restarter for many.

As such, you have to be careful while selecting a non-traditional college. You’ll understand once you pour over the difference between trade schools, vocational schools, and community colleges.

Trade Schools

Trade or technical schools provide a mixture of academic and first-hand experience in a vocation. For example, in a medical assistant technical school, you would also have to learn HIPAA and OSHA regulations along with administering injections. You need a strong background in English and Maths to get admission. However, they differ from community colleges in that the course length runs from 1 to 2 years at best. Students also rarely spend time in the classroom and are found in workshops or labs putting their skills to the test.

Vocational Schools

Vocational schools are more of a subdivision of trade schools, though we use the term interchangeably. You can find vocational high schools collaborating with local trade schools to give their students an early career push. The program pathways can range from CMA, Medical Administrative Assistant, to Medical Billing and Coding specialist. The academic side of things is largely glossed over in these programs. Along with training, students get credits to submit to a college of choice. They graduate with a diploma and a certification in their preferred programs.

Community Colleges

Community colleges provide a huge range of programs spanning academic and trade industries. You could take Allied health programs and courses in the same school year. They also emulate traditional colleges where you have a campus to stroll, a library, cafe, labs, and other facilities.

What they all have in common is the small-scale classes for each semester.

How important are Trade School Programs for Medical Assistants?

You will rarely find programs offering a traditional 4-year college degree in Medical Assistance. Universities usually grant bachelors in Allied Health Science, Psychology, Medical Laboratory Science, or Biomedical Science. None of them specialize in medical assisting but treat it as a subset.

The scope of these courses does not match the ones from trade school for medical assisting. Traditional colleges provide more textbook-focused courses.

It lacks the practical training which MAs get from a trade school. As a result, most end up getting an additional certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree. Through trade school, MAs learn how to provide proper care to patients through simulation rather than risking their life straight in the field.

How Long Are Trade Schools Medical Assistant Programs?

Your choice of a trade school medical assistant program decides the length. An online degree can take anywhere from 1 to 9 months. You may earn a certification or a diploma.

Most trade schools offer a 9-month to 1-year in-person medical assistant diploma program. Some even offer an associate’s degree if you go for a 2-year course.

How Much Does Medical Assistant Trade School Cost?

Medical assistant vocational school fees can go from $5000 to $20,000. The reputation of the technical school, combined with the program and class length, can be a determining factor for the tuition.

However, most accredited trade schools offer financial aid to counterbalance the cost.

How Do You Pay For a Medical Assistant Trade School?

While the tuition for a trade school is lower than a traditional college, it is still hefty. However, there are ways to pay the sum.

  1. Look into vocational organizations offering scholarships in your area. This form of financial aid does not need to be paid back.
  2. Trade schools also have student scholarship programs, generally funded by a trade organization.
  3. Federal Pell Grants are a federal initiative for students in need. It will pay part of the tuition. However, only Title IV approved institutions have the grant program available. You will also need to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid to qualify.
  4. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program is for students from low-income families. Many students opt in for FSEOG and Federal Pell Grants.
  5. Private trade companies and, in the case of medical assistance, hospitals, and clinical institutes often sponsor students. You are expected to work for the company once you graduate to repay the loan.
  6. Private loans are a last resort as they require loan repayment, often with interest. Still, it is something to consider if you don’t qualify for grants or scholarships.

Benefits of Trade School

The difference between trade school and traditional school is that you will notice the benefits of the former.

  • Low fees compared to a traditional college.
  • Small concentrated class size where everyone gets equal attention.
  • Clinical Hands-on demonstrations and on-the-job experience.
  • Assisting or shadowing a master of the trade during the school year to learn.
  • Placement programs where physician’s offices, medical clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities pick you up straight from school.
  • Allied Health careers are always in need and only have an upward curve in demand.
  • Graduation within 1 to 2 years.
  • Lenient admission policies where students can enroll even with low grades and no extracurriculars on their resumes.

How to Choose the Right MA Trade School?

Here are some points to consider while choosing a Medical Assistant trade school to apply for:

  • Look for vocational schools with high graduation rates. It indicates the students enjoy the atmosphere and get enough value from class to see the program to completion.
  • Some trade schools specialize in specific industries, such as phlebotomy or clinical administration. You want to ensure you select the trade school accordingly.
  • Check the accreditation, as it will confirm the validity of the certification.
  • Always go for schools willing to help you get a job post-graduation.
  • Research on their financial assistance programs
  • Ensure the school has usable laboratories for hands-on training.
  • Small class size is always better

What are popular Allied Health Trade School Programs?

According to The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions (ASAHP), allied health refers to the entirety of the healthcare system. This means nurses, health technicians, scientists, and medical assistants.

By ASAHP standards, 60% of the medical world can be defined under allied health.

Some of the popular allied health trade school programs include:

  • Medical Assisting
  • Dental Assisting
  • Phlebotomy
  • Nursing
  • Medical Coding
  • Massage Therapy
  • Radiography
  • Speech-language pathology
  • Audiology
  • Emergency medical technicalities
  • Paramedical

Is there any Trade school for Medical Assistants?

Many trade schools offer medical assistant programs. It is a diploma course in most colleges. You can also find plenty of community colleges for medical assisting degrees, where they offer an associate’s degree in addition to a diploma.

Specialized medical assistant schools are also happy to let you take a certificate course online and put in clinical hours independently.

Top Medical Assistant Trade School Programs

1. Carrington College

Course Offered: 9 months certificate program, 1-year diploma program

Location: Idaho, California, Oregon, Washington, and other locations

At Carrington College, MA aspirants could opt for the 9 months certificate program or a 1-year diploma. You have to obtain 28.5 credits for certification and 60.5 credits for the diploma. The course adds up to 270 lecture hours, 240 lab hours, and 180 clinical hours. Expect the fees to rack up to $15,478. However, the college is generous with student loans and scholarships.

It also has Title IX approval and provides students with a library, disability accommodations, and transcriptions. Students can also get jobs from the college and in the college.

2. Northwestern College

Course Offered: 10 months certification program

Location: Illinois

The Medical Assisting program at Northwestern College is 10 months long. 9 months are spent in lecture rooms and labs. The last month is directed to 160 hours of clinical externship. Upon completion, students are eligible for the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) examination.

Northwestern College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. To pay the $22,000 fees, you can apply for grants and loans. There is placement support along with clubs, libraries, and a host of events year-round.

3. Southwestern College

Course Offered: Certification and diploma medical assisting program

Location: Crown Cove, Otay Mesa, National City, Chula Vista

Students who complete the Southwestern College Medical Assisting program can sit for the CCMA, CMAA, and CBCS certifications. This course pays special attention to medical billing and coding, administrative duties, and clinical work.

Students have to attend all classes to pass though you have a flexible class schedule. You have to invest 162 hours for the certificate and 216 hours to get the degree. All the Southwestern College campuses have laboratories, libraries, and the latest equipment.

4. Milwaukee Area Technical College

Course Offered: Technical Diploma

Location: Downtown Milwaukee Campus

The Medical Assistant Technical Diploma program from Milwaukee Area Technical College opens its door twice a year- January and August. The program length is 8 months if completed on time. However, due to the flexibility of the classes, students can extend it up to 18 months. 176 hours of clinical hour submission is required to pass the course.

Graduates can appear for the AAMA exam and CMA exam.

Students get parking facilities and library membership and get placed into local jobs through the college. The total tuition amounts to $19,374 and can be brought down to $9,254 with financial aid.

5. PIMA Medical Institute

Course Offered: 9 months diploma program

Location: Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona

PIMA Medical Institute is the optimal trade school for a medical assistant degree. You will receive your degree in 9 months on a medically primed campus with labs and state-of-the-art equipment. Graduates work at the top clinics, hospitals, and medical houses nationwide.

You are looking at an average fee of $15,374 for any location you sign up for. The lectures can be taken online except for the mandatory clinical and lab hours. Financial aid is also available for students.

Is MA Trade School Good for a Career?

To become a Medical Assistant, you do not need any credentials. With the exception of Washington, Medical Assistants can enter the job field regardless of certification.

Some MAs get an externship with a clinic first and enroll in a degree program later. However, with a diploma from an MA trade school, you will get better job opportunities in medical facilities.

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Written by : Casey Gardner

Casey Gardner is both a healthcare support professional and an accomplished content creator.  She has been working as a certified health care professional with marketable skills as a physician assistant,  and a qualified medical assistant for last two decades. She has dedicated her nursing career to produce over hundreds of content pieces since 2001, and her work has been published both online as well as offline.


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