June 29, 2022  |  Purdue Global

The medical assistant field is growing at a quickening pace. The number of jobs in the field is expected to grow by 18% from 2020 to 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That growth is more than the average for all other occupations.*

There is no one degree program for someone pursuing a career as a medical assistant, but medical assistant courses will help you meet the field’s requirements.

Read on to find out more about the medical assistant field, medical assistant classes students take, and more.

>> Read “4 Health Care Careers You Can Launch in 2 Years or Less”

Where Medical Assistants Work

A vast majority of medical assistants are employed in physicians’ offices. They work in many different types of practices, including the following:

  • Cardiology
  • Dermatology
  • Family practice
  • Gastroenterology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatric and behavioral health
  • Urgent care
  • Women’s health

>> Read “Where Do Medical Assistants Work?”

What Is It Like Being a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants work with patients directly and assist other medical professionals with patient care and well-being. They often are relied upon to complete administrative and clinical tasks in physicians’ offices, hospitals, and other health care facilities.

Medical assistants generally help complete patients’ vital signs, update medication lists and health records, assist the health care provider, and possibly schedule appointments.

We talked to Danielle Scheetz, DC, CCMA, medical assisting program chair at Purdue Global, to get her thoughts on this popular career choice.

Becoming an assistant is a great way to enter the medical field, Scheetz says.

“If you want to work with patients, you can do that. You can also do more administrative, front-office work if you prefer. There's so much versatility with medical assisting.”

She says medical assistants can avoid repetition by learning new skills and applying them, without having to complete more education.

Is the Medical Assistant Field Growing?

Due to the Affordable Care Act and factors such as an aging population needing more health care, there has been a growth in medicine and medical careers.

“In the past, people wouldn’t want to go to the hospital or a physician's office to get things checked out because they didn't have insurance, and it was very costly,” Scheetz says. “Now, more people are coming in.”

According to her, patients are expecting more from health care.

“Patients want flexibility. They want to have the answers now. They don't like to wait until the last minute,” she says. “Physicians’ offices are trying hard to get that information and data to patients as fast as possible.”

Many patients can now quickly access their test results online, but if they have questions, they can seek out a medical assistant for answers.

How Does Someone Become a Medical Assistant?

There are various credentialing exams that certify medical assistants. This means there are education requirements that will help someone move toward certification.

“The simplest route to get certified is to go through a schooling program,” Scheetz says.

Popular medical assistant certifications are:

  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
  • Clinical Medical Assistant Certification (CMAC)
  • National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

>> Find out more about “How to Become a Medical Assistant”

What Skills Will Medical Assistant Students Learn?

Clinical courses are designed to teach students what they’ll need to know to work in a medical office. At Purdue Global, medical assistant students learn through online instruction, online simulations where they practice key clinical skills, and externships. Students acquire both administrative and patient care experience. 

According to Scheetz, students learn most skills in the online courses: “When they get into the later clinical courses, that's when we use simulations.” And during externships, students get actual experience with patients. At Purdue Global, students gain real-world experience and build their network with a 160-hour externship at a local physician’s office or clinic that is approved by the University.

Some of the administrative, or front-office, duties that are taught to students throughout the medical assistant program include: 

  • Carrying out basic accounting procedures
  • Addressing reception needs
  • Coordinating patient referrals
  • Collecting insurance information and proper documentation
  • Performing medical billing and coding tasks, including ICD-10 and CPT coding
  • Managing Electronic Health Records (EHR)

Clinical, or back-office, duties include: 

  • Giving injections
  • Obtaining patient vital signs (such as blood pressure, pulse, and temperature)
  • Administering medications
  • Assisting in minor surgical procedures
  • Obtaining specimens and laboratory testing
  • Performing phlebotomy
  • Recording EKGs

Overall, medical assistant students will:

  • Develop skills in performing clinical, laboratory, and medical office procedures
  • Gain real-world knowledge through an on-ground clinical experience and externship
  • Learn from professors who are experienced health care professionals
  • Prepare for medical assistant certification exams

What Topics Are Covered in a Medical Assistant Curriculum?

Students can expect to take medical assistant classes that cover the following topics:


Knowledge of diseases will allow medical assistants to explain and relay medically related content to patients. It will also help them to ask appropriate questions to obtain the necessary information for the physician.

Medical Coding

This covers basic coding principles used to file insurance claims, insurance terminology, and knowledge of different types of health insurance. Medical assistants can be part of the billing and coding process at a clinic.

Medical Ethics and Law

These courses help prepare students to understand the importance of their ethical, legal, and professional responsibilities when working as a medical assistant.

Medical Office

These courses outline procedural guidelines and administrative tasks that medical assistants perform. This includes the handling of patient information, HIPAA guidelines, and more.

Medical Terminology

This helps provide a logical understanding of the language of medicine. This knowledge will help medical assistants document electronic medical records properly.


Medical assistant students will be taught basic pharmacology principles, including drug classes, dosage calculations and measurement conversions, drug administration routes, and proper medication documentation procedures.

Other Clinical Courses

Other commonly performed procedures covered will include collecting a health history, specimen processing, surgical asepsis and procedures, vital signs, and more.

Get the Training You Need to Become a Medical Assistant

Purdue Global can help you gain the skills you’ll need to become a medical assistant and prepare you for certification. Purdue Global’s Medical Assistant Certificate is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs upon the recommendation of the Medical Assisting Education Review Board (MAERB).

Find out more about the Medical Assistant Certificate Program or contact us for more information today.

About the Author

Purdue Global

Purdue Global delivers a fully personalized, world-class education online that's tailored for adults. We offer 175 programs, including associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees as well as certificates, in areas such as business, IT, education, health sciences, nursing, criminal justice, and more.

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*Job Growth Projections: National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Medical Assistant Certification: Certification and licensing boards in Washington and South Dakota have specific educational requirements for a program to lead to certification as a medical assistant, which is a precondition for employment in those states. Purdue Global’s medical assistant program meets the educational requirements to obtain certification in Washington and South Dakota. Prospective and current students must review Purdue Global’s State Licensure and Certifications site to view program and state specific licensure information.

Residents of all states are responsible for understanding the requirements of optional certification exams. The University cannot guarantee students will be eligible to sit for or pass exams. In some cases, work experience, additional coursework beyond the Purdue Global program, fieldwork, and/or background checks may be necessary to be eligible to take or to successfully pass the exams.

Employment and Career Advancement: Purdue Global does not guarantee employment placement or career advancement. Actual outcomes vary by geographic area, previous work experience and opportunities for employment. Additional training or certification may be required. In addition, job titles and responsibilities may vary by organization.