There's no doubt about it; careers in health care have exploded over the last few decades. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for these workers is only expected to increase as our population continues to age and consume health care at a much faster rate. As physician's and dental offices continue to expand, they will need to hire more workers to provide assistance to patients and take care of common administrative tasks. Online medical assistant schools, as well as online dental assistant schools, can prepare students for the many openings in these fields.
Online Medical Assistant and Dental Assistant Degrees
Before a student decides which industry to join, it is important to research the educational requirements for careers in the medical and dental assisting industries. There may be plenty of online medical assistant or dental assistant programs to choose from, but it is essential to know what is required for each career so that students can set themselves up for success.
In some states, a degree is not required for medical assistants or dental assistants to enter the field. However, as the BLS notes, a certificate or associate degree can increase job prospects and lead to higher pay.
The following table includes the most common online degree options available in medical and dental assisting and related occupations as well as how long they take to complete. Also included in the table are some careers that the corresponding degree can help you qualify for:
|Degree||Timeline for Completion||Applicable Careers|
|Certificate||Six months to two years||Medical assistants, dental assistants, surgical technologists, medical and clinical laboratory technicians|
|Associate degree||Typically two years of full-time study||Medical assistants, dental assistants, surgical Technologists, dental hygienists, medical and clinical laboratory technicians|
Typically four years of full-time study
|Medical laboratory technologists|
Career Outlook for Medical and Dental Assistants
Although growth for careers in medical and dental assisting can vary widely due to the economy and local job market, job prospects look excellent for most workers in these fields. According to the BLS, employment for all health technologists and technicians is expected to increase 16 percent nationally from 2014 to 2024. Meanwhile, the BLS predicts that employment for all health care support occupations will increase 23 percent nationally during the same timeframe. The following table illustrates some of the most popular career options, along with the May 2015 median annual wage and job outlook for the 2014-24 decade as per the BLS.
|Career||Median Annual Wage||Projected National Growth|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists||$60,520||14%|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians||$38,970||18%|
Choosing the Right Median and Dental Assistant School
When choosing between online medical assisting programs and on-campus or online dental assisting programs, it is crucial that you explore all of your options. According to the BLS, it is also essential that you know the licensing requirements in your state so that you can pick a school that is the right fit.
For example, the BLS reports that some states require dental assistants to become licensed, and becoming licensed may depend on the student's ability to pass a Certified Dental Assistant Exam administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). However, in some cases, only students who graduated from an accredited dental assisting school are qualified to take the exam. In other cases, students with a high school diploma are able to sit for the exam as long as they have completed their state's requirement for on-the-job training. Either way, it is important to know your state's requirements ahead of time.
With medical and dental assisting, you may also want to complete some of your education through hands-on training. If that's the case, it is important to know what type of laboratory work may be offered in your specific online medical assisting or dental assisting program. If the program you're considering is lacking an option for hands-on learning, you may want to keep looking until you find a program that meets your needs.
- Dental Assistants, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm#tab-1
- Dental Hygienists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm#tab-1
- May 2015 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
- Medical Assistants, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm#tab-1
- Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-and-clinical-laboratory-technologists-and-technicians.htm#tab-1
- Surgical Technologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/surgical-technologists.htm#tab-1