The New York Times on Medical Assistant Education Programs

If you're currently trying to decide on which Medical Assistant College Program you should attend, then you shouldn't miss this article by Kevin Carey in the New York Times.

The author suggests that the free market has failed medical assisting education resulting low employment rates or underemployment making it very difficult for Medical Assistants to pay off their education debt - in fact he cites statistics that show graduates from Drake have a 31% default rate on their loans.

At one point in the article, Kevin Carey says,

“No state or federal law requires medical assistants to have a medical assistant certificate from a college”

That claim is true, however as the American Association of Medical Assistants point out on their website, you do need to attend a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assisting program in order to sit for the CMA exam to become a Certified Medical Assistant - similar requirements are imposed for becoming an RMA.

Mr Carey also failed to point out in his article that the the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) require that only “credentialed medical assistants” are allowed to enter medication orders into the computerized provider order entry (CPOE) system. The CMS explicitly states that medical assisting credentials “would have to be obtained from an organization other than the employing organization.”

So while Mr Carey is correct in his claim that you aren't required to go to college to become a medical assistant, he avoids mentioning that you are required to have formal qualifications in order to carry out some of the tasks that employers often expect medical assistants to perform.

Mr Carey goes on to say,

“Among the hundreds of medical assistant job openings on Craigslist in the New York City metropolitan area, it’s nearly impossible to find an employer who explicitly requires a certificate. Instead, the ads are full of phrases like “experienced multitasker,” “skilled phlebotomist””.

While it's true that you don't need to be licensed to perform phlebotomy in New York, it is required by law in many other states such as California.

Mr Carey does make some excellent points about the amount of debt you can accumulate by attending a commercial college, and he has also done some research which indicates there is a problem with underemployment in the sector - basically that many medical assistants are finding part-time work when they really need full-time work to pay back their student loans.

He does point out that

“A small number of public community colleges have successful medical-assistant programs, minting graduates who make $25,000 per year or more”.

Also the problem isn't so bad for those who obtain full-time work as you can see by downloading the AAMA's 2013 Medical Assisting Compensation and Benefits Report which was compiled by surveying more than 4,400 medical assistants.

Our own research in 2012 showed that having a qualification dramatically improved your chance of gaining work.

The important thing for every prospective medical assisting student to do is to be realistic about how much money you are going to earn once employed, and select a medical assistant program with affordable fees.