Is It Better to Have an Associate’s Degree or a Certificate for Medical Assisting

Is It Better to Have an Associate’s Degree or a Certificate for Medical Assisting

Updated By Staff Writer on March 23, 2020

Is It Better to Have an Associate’s Degree or a Certificate for Medical Assisting?

You’re busy. Are we right?

You’re busy but you’ve decided it would be worth the time, money, and effort to improve your situation regardless. That’s outstanding and making that decision is the first step toward the life you want—and you should be proud. Give yourself a little applause. You deserve it.

So you want to help people? Great! Always had a natural proclivity toward medicine? Outstanding! Luckily, the medical field is full of careers and jobs, all of which vary in terms of the years you’ll need to study them. One of the most versatile medical jobs you can qualify for in the shortest amount of time is as a medical assistant. But here’s the thing: you can qualify as an MA through a couple of ways. Earn a certificate which could take about a year or you can get an associate’s degree in Medical Assisting which takes about two years.

Sounds pretty cut and dried. After all, you’re busy. The certificate may well be the shortest path from A to Z, but is that the best option?

But easiest and quickest do not necessarily mean best. You know that or you wouldn’t be stepping up to change your life like this. After all, it’s going to take some hard work. Read on to find out more about medical assisting and the difference between pursuing an Associate’s degree and a certificate. After all, you want to put your time and effort into the program that would be best for your future, right? You’re too busy for anything less.

What Do Medical Assistants Do?

Medical assistants are trained with both clinical duties and administrative responsibilities. The American Association of Medical Students lists the following duties for medical assistants1:


  • Drawing blood
  • Taking down a patient’s medical history
  • Assisting physicians during exams
  • Talking with patients about procedures
  • Collecting laboratory specimens
  • Removing sutures
  • Changing dressings
  • Conducting basic laboratory tests
  • Preparing and administering prescriptions as directed by supervising physician


  • Updating old patient records and filing new patient medical records
  • Working with computer applications
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Welcoming patients
  • Arranging for hospital admissions and laboratory services
  • Filling out insurance forms
  • Answering telephones
  • Working with billing, correspondence, and bookkeeping

As you can tell, a medical assistants wear a lot of different hats. They work with patients both medically and professionally. In a lot of ways, they’re the liaison between patients and doctors, working to keep patients informed and to answer any questions they may have.

Where Do Medical Assistants Work?

Medical assistants exist practically wherever people come in to get medical help from professionals. They can be found in outpatient clinics, hospitals, family practices, etc.

With this wide range of locations to work, it’s no surprise that medical assistants are in high demand. According to the American Association of Medical Assistants, the job of a medical assistant is growing a great deal faster than other jobs.2

  • The elderly: People are living longer than ever these days. As such, there is an increasing number of older people in need of medical assistance.
  • Technology: Medical advancements are being made at an exponential rate. As this continues, hospitals and other medical facilities will need medical assistants who can work the machines for patients.
  • Increase in number of care facilities: As the number of elderly increases and medical technology continues to advance, more and more care facilities or outpatient clinics will spring up. And where new medical facilities are being created, new jobs for medical assistants will be generated as well.

Should I Get the Certificate or an Associate’s Degree?

A job as a medical assistant will allow you to work in the medical field without dedicating years and years of your life to study and going into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. But you’re still left with the choice between qualifying as an MA with a diploma or a two-year Associate’s degree. How are you supposed to choose?

What Will I Learn with a Diploma vs. a Medical Assisting Associate’s Degree?

A diploma in medical assisting will help get you started to meet the qualifications to become a certified Medical Assistant. Once you have completed a medical assisting diploma program including externship then you can sit for a certification exam. You’ll be trained in basic concepts and areas relevant to assisting a physician. This will include study in areas such as anatomy, physiology, drawing blood and running EKGs.

If you go the route of the two-year Associate's degree, you’ll learn similar skills. With a two-year degree, your get some management training and a more well-rounded general education that could lead to promotion.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that, depending on which state you will be working in, you may have to pass a certification exam. And with the credentials of an Associate’s degree, there’s a higher likelihood that you’ll be hired. Employers like educated employees. Employees who choose a more well-rounded education have an edge over their competition.

See What Independence University Can Offer You

Becoming a medical assistant might just be the best fit for you. Even if you’re still on the fence about the diploma or two-year degree, take a look at the medical assisting Associate's degree available to you through Independence University today!



Take Your Next Step!

Connect with an experienced admissions consultant to take the first step toward your new future:

Program selection required.

By providing us with your phone number, you consent to be contacted by Independence University about our educational programs. This contact may be by phone, autodialer, recorded message, or text. You may still enroll without providing this consent.