What of the prospective student who sees what an rewarding career medical assisting can be, but is precluded from attending school full time because of family, work or other responsibilities? Can that person still seek training as a medical assistant? The answer is a qualified, “Yes.”
There are medical assistant training programs that accommodate students who need to pursue studies on a part time basis. Most often, these programs are found online, or in conjunction with community or junior colleges.
Certificate programs in medical assisting are less accommodating than diploma programs in this regard. This could be because certificate programs are streamlined and compressed, designed to allow students to enter the workforce in as short a period of time as possible. From an administrative perspective, then, it does not make sense to allow students to attend part time.
Be aware that attending medical assisting programs on a part time basis will disqualify you for many types of Federal aid, including loans. Furthermore, all accredited medical assisting programs require a practicum or an externship, during which you will be required to work full time, whatever your life circumstances. Finally, going to MA training part time will cut down on the number of medical assisting programs you have to choose from, since many of them make full time attendance a condition.
Part time training options at community colleges
According to a 2008 report from the National Survey of Student Engagement, almost 60 percent of all community college students attend school on a part time basis. Community colleges, in fact, were designed, in part, to assist students whose circumstances don’t allow them to attend school full time.
To a large degree, however, professional training programs work through the principle of total immersion. Classroom work is one thing. All community colleges allow students to enroll part time so long as they complete two courses (six credits) per semester.
But as a trainee, classroom work will be integrated with an entirely new set of manual skills and clinical assessment approaches. This makes part time attendance problematic, since learning specialists have found that the best way to absorb practical skills is through constant repetition over a short period of time.
A few programs at community colleges announce the fact that they accommodate part time students on their websites or in their promotional literature. The majority of these training programs won’t publicize this information, however. They may allow part time attendance, but for the reasons discussed above, they don’t want to encourage it. You will have to be proactive, here. When you find a MA program that interests you, give the program administrator a call, and ask him or her directly, “Can I attend part time?”
Even if the answer is, “No,” don’t despair. Instead, ask for a meeting, and see what you can negotiate. Educational institutions can be surprisingly open to bending the rules, and if you impress the program’s administration with your maturity and intent, they may decide to make an exception for you.
Part time training options through online education providers
Individuals who can only attend educational programs part time are increasingly opting for online, distance learning schools. Many of these were started in the first place to accommodate the needs of students with restrictions on their time.
Only a handful of online programs offer medical assistant training programs. While some of these are accredited institutions providing quality career education, others are diploma mills that offer you an inferior learning experience. These online schools won’t advance your professional aspirations in any real sense.
If you do decide to go the online route, make sure the school and the medical assisting program you’re applying to are accredited. Additionally, make sure the technology they use is up to date. Online schools that provide legitimate medical assisting training generally offer either two-year AS degrees (associate in science) or one-year AAS degrees (associate in applied science).
In the long run, it may be worth it to take the plunge and figure out a way to attend a training program full time if you’re interested in pursuing a career in medical assisting. After all, the faster you complete your training, the sooner you will be in the workplace pursuing your new professional career as a medical assistant.