Teachers writing on the whiteboard at Arizona College

The Timeframe to Become a Medical Assistant


Medical assisting careers can have a variety of options for schedules, job duties and work environments. From working in medical offices and emergency clinics, medical assistants normally work directly alongside a physician. However, medical assistants are not to be confused with physician assistants. Medical assistants do a lot of routine administrative and clinical tasks, whereas physician assistants will perform more in-depth procedures in examining, diagnosing and even treating the patient.

All medical assistants essentially perform a similar set of job duties. We’ve broken down the different administrative and clinical tasks below:

Common Medical Assistant Clinical Duties

  • Prepping patients for exams
  • Taking blood
  • Performing lab tests
  • Assisting physicians during exams
  • Collecting lab specimens
  • Explaining treatments to patients
  • Administering medications as directed by physician
  • Changing wound dressings
  • Taking electrocardiograms

Common Medical Assistant Administrative Duties

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Updating patient records
  • Answering telephones
  • Greeting patients
  • Operating various computer applications
  • Filling out insurance forms
  • Booking laboratory services
  • Handling bookkeeping and billing

Now that you have a good understanding of exactly what you’ll be doing in your new career, let’s look into how long it takes to become a medical assistant.

Program Length

Many medical assistant programs take under a year to two years to complete. At Arizona College, students have the choice of taking our diploma program or our associate’s degree program. Our diploma program is 30 weeks long, providing a strong foundation of academic and laboratory experience, followed by an externship in a real-world clinical setting. The associate’s degree program provides even more in-depth exposure to modern laboratory equipment and procedures; biology courses; and a crash course on the legal side of the healthcare industry. Our associate’s degree program is 60 weeks long (six quarters of 10 weeks) which includes five weeks of externship experience.

No matter which you choose, both programs have sessions starting every five weeks, perfect for students who can’t commit to a program far in advance because of a job or living situation.

Getting Certified

After you’ve completed a program to become a medical assistant it’s time to get certified.   Arizona College’s medical assisting program includes training in all the skills and knowledge needed to pass your certification test. Graduating students can get their Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants. This test is offered three times a year and must be renewed every five years.

Next Steps

After you achieve your certification you will be well positioned to start applying to jobs and working with our career services department. Make sure to include your certification information on your resume as you’re applying to jobs. With your due diligence, and the help of our experienced career services staff, you’ll become a medical assistant in a desired environment of your choosing in no time.

Want to start your journey to become a medical assistant? Use the Request Information form today to get in touch with an Arizona College representative!

Information in this blog post is accurate as of April 18, 2016.