Do I Need A Degree For All Healthcare Jobs?

"I am looking for a steady job to help pay the bills. My husband works full time as it is, and I don’t need a high-earning job, but I do want something steady, and medical assistant looks like something that might interest me. Do I need a four-year degree to get into this field, or can I get by with an associate’s degree or even just a certificate?"

asked by Tiffany from Denver, CO

The job of medical assistant involves helping out with clinical and clerical work in a hospital or clinic or other medical environment. Since the majority of the work is clerical and administrative in nature, you can look at becoming a medical assistant as becoming an office administrator who happens to work in a clinic.

There is no need for a formal degree past your high school diploma or GED. That said, however, a postsecondary certification of some sort may help if you want to do more clinical aspects of business. Once you’re hired, you’ll receive on-the-job training to help you fulfill your duties.

You also may want to consider some other occupations that are similar to medical assistant but which may pay you a little better. Medical coders, billers and transcriptionists start out with comparable salaries, but sometimes can go on to earn more money.

To get into one of those occupations, you generally don’t need anything more than a certification, which you can get if you take a short course in medical billing, coding, or transcription. Usually you can complete it in a year or two (if a course is going to take longer, for some reason other than your personal schedule, it probably is not a good course).

You also might check into nursing and physician assistant jobs. I don’t know your personal situation and how much time and money you have to put into your education, but if you’re comfortable with the idea of working directly with patients or if that’s something which interests you, you will find far more opportunity in terms of pay in those occupations.

While you say you don’t need it, more money is always good, and what’s great about those two jobs is they only require an associate’s degree. You can get that in two years as well if you’re dedicated.

Healthcare is an area of prime opportunity right now. Part of that reason is that sickness and injury are inevitable in any economy.

The other reason is that we have a population that is living longer and longer, but not necessarily living healthier. That’s why there is a booming need for all kinds of medical auxiliary staff as well as nurses, doctors, and other practitioners.

So you’ve chosen a great field in terms of job outlook. Most of these positions are expected to continue to grow at a good clip in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is projecting 162,900 new medical assistant jobs to come open by the year 2020!

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