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Part of Western Governors University

Medical Assistant at WGU

A doctor or nurse works at a laptop as she furthers her education with a bachelor of science in nursing.

Are You Considering a Career as a Medical Assistant?

The healthcare industry is growing faster than ever. If you’re thinking about a job in the medical field, or ready to take the next step in your healthcare career, now’s a great time to explore your education options.

Medical assisting is a great fit for anyone who enjoys both the administrative and clinical side of patient care. Of course, if you’re passionate about healthcare and helping people, there are many other career paths to consider, too.

While WGU doesn’t currently offer a medical assistant certificate, our Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Science in Health Services Coordination, and Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management programs can prepare you for a career similar to medical assisting. If you’re already a medical assistant, or aspiring to be one, these degree programs can help you build on your skills and broaden your career choices. Graduation from one of these accredited programs will be crucial in helping you advance your career.

Pathways to Careers Similar to Medical Assisting

Similar to nurses, medical assistants work alongside doctors to do a variety of tasks from assisting with minor procedures and checking patient vitals to prepping exam rooms and communicating with patients throughout their medical journeys. However, as a medical assistant, you’ll be expected to handle more administrative tasks like bookkeeping, billing, and updating medical records. This means in addition to your clinical skills, you’ll need to possess strong organizational and clerical skills, as well as the ability to multitask. 

If you’re looking for a more advanced job in the medical field, there are many degree paths that can prepare you for a career similar to medical assisting. 


Bachelor of Science in Health Services Coordination

This bachelor's degree program will prepare you for a career focused on helping people navigate their healthcare journeys. You’ll gain the knowledge necessary to work with patients on the administrative side to help explain medical situations and treatment plans. You’ll be able to manage patient journeys and care in a unique way with a career in healthcare coordination. Your courses will cover topics such as value-based care, care coordination, and integrated care management.

Some of the jobs this degree prepares you for that are similar to medical assisting include:

  • Patient advocate
  • Service coordinator
  • Patient educator
  • Community health educator
  • Care coordinator

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Prelicensure)

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is for aspiring nurses or medical assistants looking for a path to both their registered nurse (RN) license and a BSN degree. The curriculum focuses on areas such as research, theory, leadership, community concepts, healthcare policy, therapeutic interventions, and current trends in healthcare. 

If you’re considering a career as a medical assistant but want to be more hands-on with patients and expand your career in the medical field, a BSN in Nursing could be the better choice for you. 

Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management

A health information management (HIM) degree will prepare you for the high-demand field of healthcare information technology and management. You’ll learn how to use data to influence decisions, improve patient outcomes, and create a better future in healthcare. Similar to medical assisting, you’ll be working with the details and administrative elements of healthcare, helping patients navigate their journeys to wellness.

Some of the jobs this degree prepares you for that are similar to medical assisting include:

  • Healthcare administrator
  • Case manager
  • Health records manager

$35,850

is the average annual salary for medical assistants.

A happy young nurse walks down a hallway.

$65,785

is the average annual salary for registered nurses.

Careers Similar to Medical Assisting

To become a medical assistant, you can complete an accredited medical assisting program, which can take anywhere from 12 months to two years. After completing the program, you have the option to become certified through an exam. This exam will go over medical terminology, specific medical assistant training, understanding vital signs, medical records, scheduling appointments, and other elements of working in a medical office. The American Association for Medical Assistants offers three exams each year. After certification, you’ll need to renew your certification every five years to continue working in many medical offices. This isn’t required by law; however, many employers prefer candidates who are certified.

If you want to pursue a more advanced position with the potential to earn a higher salary, you may benefit from pursuing other healthcare-related degrees.

With a degree in nursing, health information management, or health services coordination, you can pursue a variety of jobs as a nurse, patient advocate, health services coordinator, and more.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical assistants handle both administrative tasks and patient care duties. They can work anywhere from hospitals to laboratories and handle tasks such as updating medical records, assisting with physical exams, and collecting lab specimens.

What Does a Nurse Do?

Nurses provide medical treatment and support to patients, as well as give them advice, educate them on their treatment and recovery, and offer emotional support. Their exact duties can depend on their nursing specialty or the setting they work in.

What Does a Patient Advocate Do?

Patient advocates look out for the best interests of patients. They provide them with a list of resources once they leave the hospital and can coordinate for them to receive the information they need regarding their health.

What Does a Health Services Coordinator Do?

These professionals act as liaisons to help patients interact with their care providers and even insurance companies.

What Does a Health Information Manager Do?

A health information manager works almost exclusively with data. They protect and handle patient data and ensure that the information is accurate, accessible, secure, and high quality.

What Does a Medical Records Manager Do?

Medical records managers maintain and secure all written and electronic medical records within an organization’s medical records department. They also make sure that information is accurate, complete, and available only to authorized personnel.

Nurse reading results on clipboard

32%

career growth is expected in medical and health service manager positions, while employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 7% from now until 2029.

Why choose WGU?

Why should you choose a health information management or healthcare management degree over a medical assistant certificate from a medical assistant school? Here are a few reasons a WGU degree is a smart choice.

  • It’s affordable. Our low, flat-rate tuition is charged per six-month term and covers as many courses as you complete in that time.
  • It’s accessible. Along with our already-low tuition, our scholarships and financial aid make college even more affordable.
  • It’s at your pace. Thanks to our competency-based education, you can pass courses by proving what you know instead of classroom time, meaning you can speed up your program and graduate faster.
  • It’s career focused. Our degree programs are designed with your employment and success in mind, so the skills you learn will translate directly to your healthcare career.

They're Prepared

95% said that their WGU graduates were prepared for their jobs

95% of employers said that WGU graduates were prepared for their jobs.

They're Top Candidates

96% said they would hire another WGU graduate

96% of employers said they would hire another WGU graduate.

They Wow

98% of employers said WGU graduates meet or exceed expectations

98% of employers said WGU graduates met or exceeded expectations.

Source: 2020 Harris Poll survey of 300 employers

Which Degree Should You Choose?

Health Services Coordination – B.S.

An online health degree program for students passionate about...

An online health degree program for students...

An online health degree program for students passionate about value-based care and dedicated to helping others.

  • Time: 60% of graduates of similar programs finish within 3 years.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,795 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Sample careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Care coordinator
  • Patient advocate
  • Health services coordinator
  • Patient educator
  • Community health educator

This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also directly working with patients who need help.

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations: offered in FL, IN, TX, and UT only.
  • Tuition and fees: $6,575 per 6-month term.

WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.

If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

Health Information Management – B.S.

A program designed for future leaders in HIM:...

A program designed for future leaders in HIM:...

A program designed for future leaders in HIM:

  • Time: 60% of grads earned this degree in 36 months or less.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,795 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Director of informatics
  • HIMS chief
  • Information systems auditor
  • Outpatient coder
  • Health records manager

This CAHIIM-accredited program makes you eligible for the RHIA exam. 

Compare with B.S. Business – Healthcare Management

Frequently Asked Questions About a Medical Assistant Career

As a medical assistant, you’ll be responsible for a variety of administrative and clinical tasks, including:

  • Taking vitals
  • Explaining treatment procedures to patients
  • Preparing patients for their exams
  • Taking medical histories
  • Assisting physicians
  • Collecting and preparing lab specimens
  • Updating medical records
  • Coding and filling out forms
  • Billing and bookkeeping

It depends on your interests and career goals. CNAs work directly with patients on a day-to-day basis helping them do things like bathe, get dressed, and eat meals. Medical assistants do more clerical tasks, such as keeping patient records up to date, answering patient questions, or taking medical histories.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a medical assistant is $35,850.

If your goal is to become a medical assistant, then a specific medical assistant school and certification is your obvious choice. But if you want to expand your healthcare knowledge and future career opportunities, a degree in nursing, healthcare management, or healthcare coordination could be a smarter choice.