Study Pediatric Assisting: Degrees at a Glance
If you want to work in pediatrics as an assistant, you could pursue training in medical assisting and physician assisting. A medical assistant performs clinical and administrative tasks and will typically schedule appointments for patients, measure vital signs, record patient medical histories, prepare blood for testing, administer injections and aid the physician in examining the patient. A physician assistant performs similar responsibilities, although they are typically more complex and involve the practice of medicine. Prescribing medication, examining patients, diagnosing illnesses and injuries, providing treatment and educating patients are the primary duties of a physician assistant.
These programs prepare you for employment in a variety of healthcare settings, including the offices of physicians, hospitals and outpatient care centers. Physician assistants must meet licensing requirements and pass a certification exam. Although medical assistants are not required to become certified, the majority of employers prefer to hire Certified Medical Assistants (CMA). Both of these careers should see about 30% job growth from 2010-2020, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
|Who is this degree for?||Students interested in starting the training path towards a career as a medical assistant||Students interested in receiving the training and education needed to work as a physician assistant|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary)|| - Certified medical assistant ($21,000-$37,000)* |
- Medical receptionist ($20,000-$35,000)*
- Patient care coordinator ($23,000-$62,000)*
- Medical billing clerk ($21,000-$37,000)*
- Medical office assistant ($20,000-$35,000)*
| - Physician assistant in pediatric office ($77,000)* |
- Administrative services (unavailable)
- Researcher (unavailable)
- Educator (unavailable)
|Time to Completion||2 years full-time||4 years full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements||Externship|| - Internship |
|Prerequisites|| - High school diploma or GED |
- Physical exam/immunizations
- Background check
- Drug and alcohol screen
- CPR certification
| -Documentation of patient care experience or health care exposure |
- Undergraduate courses in math and science with a grade of C or better
|Online Availability||Limited programs||None found at this time|
Source: * Payscale.com (June 2012 figures, 10th-90th percentile).
Associate in Medical Assisting
Associate degree programs in medical assisting can allow you to develop critical thinking and analytical skills, while also learning clinical and administrative skills. Many programs will also focus on individual specialties within healthcare, such as pediatrics, orthopedics, cardiology, gastroenterology, dermatology and OB/GYN. Some schools also offer you the option to choose a specialty, which is helpful if you already know you would like to work in a pediatric office.
The degree program also prepares you to interact effectively with patients and families, perform basic diagnostic tests, assist with patient exams, perform basic procedures of patient care and collect and process specimens. Most programs also require you to complete an externship at a healthcare facility. The curriculum of this degree program will prepare you to be successful when taking the Certified Medical Assistant exam, but you may be competing for jobs with graduates of certificate or diploma programs.
Pros and Cons
- Curriculum prepares you for a career as a medical assistant
- Externship experiences give you hands-on training and real-world work experience
- Curriculum gives you the knowledge needed to be successful at the CMA exam
- You would be applying for the same jobs as someone with a certificate or diploma
- Admission to program is competitive
- Students cannot choose externship locations
Courses and Training Requirements
Your required coursework would span anatomy and physiology, phlebotomy, pharmacology, x-ray placement, bookkeeping and administering medical procedures. The majority of schools will also require you to complete an externship in a specific medical environment such as health clinic or family practice. This typically occurs during your final semester as a student and offers you the opportunity to apply what you have learned and gain hands-on experience. Topics in common courses include:
- Medical law and ethics
- Medical terminology
- Medical assisting clinical procedures
- Anatomy and physiology
- Exam room procedures
Online Course Info
Online courses and degree options in medical assisting are not entirely common, although it may be possible to take some required courses in an online format. If you do find a school that offers an online program, ensure that your program has been accredited by either the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). In order to be eligible to take the CMA Certification Examination, your program must be accredited by one of these organizations.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
The BLS expected a greater number of physicians to make the switch to electronic health records (EHRs). This change will likely result in a responsibility shift for most medical assistants as they will be expected to analyze electronic data and maintain EHR security. So that you are better prepared and feel more comfortable working with EHR software, you can take additional computer and software courses. You may also want to consider an internship or externship where you will be working with EHRs, as this will make you a more competitive candidate once you enter the job market.
Although certification is voluntary for medical assistants, you can pursue opportunities to become a CMA. Since the majority of employers choose to hire medical assistants who are certified, you can make yourself more marketable by passing a certification exam. These exams are offered by a variety of organizations, including the American Association of Medical Assistants, American Medical Technologists, the National Center for Competency Testing and the National Healthcareer Association.
Bachelor's in Physician Assisting
The curriculum for the majority of physician assistant bachelor's programs includes medical interviewing, developing physical examination skills, formulating treatment plans, educating and counseling patients and developing pharmacology knowledge. Many schools require that you complete general education requirements before you are accepted into the program.
You can expect to spend your final year as an undergraduate participating in clinical rotations and internships. These will be related to various healthcare specialties, including pediatrics, emergency medicine, psychiatry, surgery, family medicine, internal medicine, OB/GYN and ambulatory care. After you have completed all of your required coursework and clinical rotations, you will be eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination that is offered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
Pros and Cons
- Prepares you for employment in a growing field
- Clinical rotations and internships provide you with the opportunity to work directly with patients and gain clinical skills and experience
- Program prepares you for advanced career opportunities including those in research, education and administrative services
- Some employers may prefer to hire graduates with a master's degree, and some states may require a master's to become licensed
- Competitive screening process for program admission
- Graduation from program does not guarantee licensing; you still must pass certification exams
Courses and Training Requirements
As a student in this degree program, you can expect to take courses in human anatomy and physiology, medical ethics, pathology, physical diagnosis and clinical medicine. The structure of most classes includes a combination of laboratory training and classroom instruction. During your clinical year, you can expect to receive clinical training in a variety of specialties. Topics in common courses include:
- Interviewing and counseling
- Physical assessment
- Clinical procedures
- Medical physiology/pathophysiology
- Biomedical ethics
Online Course Info
Online learning is typically not offered for a physician assistant bachelor's program. If you are considering a career as a physician assistant, you will greatly benefit from the on-campus resources and training opportunities that are available to students. When considering online programs, you should be sure that your degree program has been accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. You will not be able to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination unless you have graduated from an accredited program.
Stand Out with This Degree
The BLS predicts that job prospects will be the most favorable for physician assistants working in rural and medically underserved areas. To make yourself more marketable to employers you can pursue clinical internships or rotations within these areas. This will give you the experience needed to work within these areas and make yourself a more competitive candidate after you graduate.
You can also pursue organizations and clubs on-campus that are designed for students in physician assistant programs or pre-physician assistant programs. By seeking out these types of opportunities, you may be able to learn more about becoming a physician assistant, participate in volunteer opportunities, receive educational guidance based on your career goals and shadow current physician assistants.