Cost of Medical Assistant Programs & Certification

Medical Assistant Program Tuition

costsThe tuition to become a Medical Assistant can vary greatly according to your educational goals, state/locality of residence, and the specific institution or school that you would like to attend.

There are two main educational routes to becoming a Medical Assistant. These alternative paths include a certificate or diploma program and an associate degree in applied science.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Medical Assistant?

A certificate or diploma program to become a medical assistant is typically conducted in a vocational or technical school in your community. These programs typically take a year or less depending on whether you attend it on a full time or part time basis. Certificate programs are the shorter and the less costly of the two options in most cases.

Medical Assistant Degree Programs

An Associate of Applied Science program in a local community college takes at least two years to complete. This program includes liberal arts courses such as English and psychology in addition to medical assisting coursework.Although this type of program takes an additional year of commitment, it may be the better of the two options, particularly if you are considering advancing your career in healthcare by becoming a nurse. You will have taken many of the courses that are required for a nursing or another healthcare degree as you are completing your degree as a medical assistant. Additionally, some employers prefer an associate degree medical assistant over a diploma or certificate graduate and they also may be willing to pay this college graduate more in terms of salary and benefits.

Like tuition, application and admission fees vary among the two types of programs and among similar schools offering the same type of program. The initial program application fee for a certificate program ranges from $25 to $250 and the tuitions can vary from about $2,000 to over $20,000 with an average cost of $13,000 to $15,000.

Tuition for an Associate of Applied Science degree can range from $4,000 to $40,000 with an average price tag of $26,000 to $27,000. Community colleges seem to offer the most reasonable rates to attend their diploma or certificate programs in comparison to other technical and vocational schools. For example, Eastern Gateway Community College, which has multiple locations across the state of Ohio, offers both an associate degree and a certificate program for medical assisting. The cost of their associate degree is about $7,000 and their diploma program is about $4,250.

Tuition may or may not include the costs of books and other supplies so it is important to consider this while deciding on which school and program you want to attend.

As life expectancies continue to increase in the United States it incrementally increases the demand for nearly all medical and healthcare careers, particularly in the area of medical assisting.

Medical Assistant School Material Costs

Tuition is the largest expense you'll have to tackle when entering any secondary education program. However, the costs do not end there. Textbooks, a back pack, a computer, spiral notebooks, highlighters, pocket folders, pens, and a pack or two of index cards is the “starting kit” for any student, regardless of their major or subject matter. As a student enrolled in a medical assistant program, however, you will be required to have more than just that “starter kit”. You need the supplies and equipment that will allow you to provide care to your clients. For example, a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, scrubs, tape measure, a penlight, and more will be essential for you to learn and practice the skills that you will need as a medical assistant.

Textbooks are the next largest expense after tuition. Medical textbooks are far more expensive than other textbooks. The average cost of textbooks is about $2,000. Most classes will require at least one, if not two or three textbooks to complete a course.

New, and sometimes used, textbooks can almost always be found on campus at the college or technical/vocational school bookstore. If you feel the need to experience that "new book smell" then prepare to dish out anywhere from $150 and up for it. Used textbooks offer a great way to save from 25% to 50% less than the price of that new book. Some used books may have previous owner highlighting which you may, or may not, find helpful.

Ways to save on textbooks, supplies and other materials include:

[dm3_collapse label=”Buying Online” state=”open”]Amazon.com, Craigslist, and even Walmart.com are all great alternate places to shop for textbooks and other supplies. Some sites, like Amazon.com, even offer a textbook rental service. You will need the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) of the textbook required for your class to confirm that you're purchasing the right one. If no ISBN is available, try to find it online using the author's name, date of publication and the title of the book.Amazon and Walmart may surprise you with their seemingly endless array of medical accessories at discounted prices, from blood pressure cuffs to ophthalmoscopes to scrubs; they appear to have it all for the frugal minded medical assistant student.[/dm3_collapse] [dm3_collapse label=”Buying a Previous Edition of the Same Textbook” state=”open”]Compare previous editions of a textbook to the most current release. There may be very little difference between them in terms of content but most often there is a big difference in price. For example, purchasing a 10th edition copy can cost 50% to 99% less than the newest 11th edition of the same book with very few differences between them. You can always ask a fellow classmate to let you compare their newest edition to your older edition to find out sections may not have added or updated.[/dm3_collapse] [dm3_collapse label=”Check the Campus Bulletin Board” state=”open”]Many students who have already finished a class and have no desire to hang on to their textbook may post its availability on these bulletin boards. Used medical supplies and other equipment can also be found on the bulletin board![/dm3_collapse]

The Costs of Certification

The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential indicates that a medical assistant has successfully passed their certifying examination. As a recent graduate of an approved program, this examination will cost you $125 and it is valid for 5 years.

Lost Wages During Medical Assistant School

If you are planning to attend medical assisting school full-time, you should look at ways to lower your expenses before you start, particularly if you are already employed and spending money based on your employment.

Get a roommate to help with rent, move back home or stay there, payoff credit card debt before you start, cut down on spending, and so on. You can also look at nontraditional pathways, such as attending evening classes after work or part-time classes that can allow you, in some cases, to continue work.

Most college professors believe that their students should spend two hours studying per week for each credit hour their class is. Because the typical college course is three to four credit hours, it means that you should expect to spend six to eight hours studying. A full-time traditional student should anticipate spending from 30 to 35 hours studying per week. This can seem overwhelming at first, but, if you manage your time correctly, your studying will become more efficient and productive as you progress in the medical assisting program.

Additionally, medical assistant training programs require a clinical or practicum experience, a sort of on-the-job training that typically consists of 200 hours, in a working healthcare environment. This clinical or practicum experience allows the medical assistant to put their education and training into real world practice without a paycheck. Medical assisting programs do not prohibit students from working outside of the classroom, however, the demands that these programs put on their students, in terms of this clinical or practicum experience, may require that you cut down even more on your employment hours.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for medical assistants is expected to increase by about 29 percent through the year 2023.

The Non-Monetary Costs During Medical Assistant School

costs2As discussed above, attending school full-time, studying to get good grades, and improving your skills via real world practice can take up much of your average day. If attending full-time, you should plan on school-related activities, like classes, homework, studying, etc., consuming between 10 to 12 hours of your average day or 70 to 84 hours each week.

Late nights and a lack of rest can also occur. The demands on you mentally and physically will affect more areas of your life than just working. Spending time with family and friends will be very limited as well. Try applying the “quality” over “quantity” approach to time spent with loved ones during each semester that you're in school, making the short time you can spend with them count more.

Ways to Pay for Medical Assistant School

Cash is always the best way to pay for anything. However, that is seldom an option for most potential students. Grants, scholarships, employer education benefits, and subsidized or unsubsidized government loans are possibly available for the traditional or nontraditional student.

Some of the first people you need to talk to when looking at potential programs and schools are the school counselor and the financial aid department. They will be able to guide you through the process of getting the funding required to pay for your education.

Some of these financial offerings include those below.

Financial Aid

Finding free money is always a good way to begin the process of getting funding for school. Grants and scholarships are two examples of financial aid that do not require you to pay it back. The real difference between them is that grants are usually need-based while scholarships are usually merit-based. Both federal and state governments offer grant funds for secondary education students.To apply for government grants, you must first complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which can be found at https://fafsa.ed.gov/.Find out what financial aid forms your school requires and the deadline to submit these applications. Complete the required forms and applications well before the deadline.

Scholarships

costs3Talk with your college advisor or counselor about outside scholarships. Use free online searches, such as the Collegeboard.com, Fastsearch.com, and Scholarships.com to find out what is available to you. To apply for an outside scholarship, you most likely will need to fill out an application form, and possibly submit financial aid forms, as well.

Loans

Loans, unlike grants or scholarships, must be paid back. Make sure that you understand the terms and conditions of the loan. Is it a Direct Subsidized Loan which typically has better terms with financial need or a Direct Unsubsidized Loan which is not based on financial need? Student loans are provided by the federal government and from private funding sources like a bank or financial institution. Loans through the federal government, called federal student loans(PDF), typically offer lower interest rates and have more flexible repayment options compared to loans from banks or other private sources.

Employee Benefits

Some employers may provide their employees, and sometimes their families, tuition reimbursement and financial aid up to thousands of dollars per year. Check with your own or your parents' employers to see what educational assistance programs might be available to you.

FAFSA Essentials for Medical Assistance Schools

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may be the most important document you will complete. This application is used to establish an amount that you, or your family, will pay for your schooling and the amount of grant money you can get.

The less income you or your family has, the lower your expected family contribution (EFC) is. The EFC can also open the door for more aid in the form of grant money and direct subsidized loans which have better terms than private lenders.

The Department of Education processes this application using your previous year's income tax returns. This means that until your income tax returns are accepted and processed the Department of Education will not process your application.

Requirements for Federal Student Aid

The basic eligibility requirements for Federal student aid are:

  • Financial need
  • U.S. citizenship or an eligible noncitizen
  • Valid Social Security number with few exceptions
  • Registered with Selective Service for males between the ages of 18 and 25
  • Enrolled, or accepted for enrollment, as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program
  • Enrolled at least half-time
  • Maintaining satisfactory progress in a college or career school

Signed statements on the FAFSA state that you are not in default on a federal student loan and do not owe money on a federal student grant; and that you will use federal student aid only for educational purposes; and you are qualified to obtain a college or career school education by having a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent such as a General Educational Development certificate or completing a high school education in a home school setting that is approved under state law.

How to Prepare and Complete a FAFSA for Medical Assistance School

fafsaFirst, gather all income and expense documentation from the previous year:

  • Taxable income for you or your parents, if applicable, including wages, pensions, unemployment compensation, alimony received, capital gains, interest, dividends, annuities, and rent or business income.
  • Non-taxable income for you or your parents, if applicable, including workers' compensation, welfare benefits with the exception of food stamps, earned income credit, housing and food allowances, child support received, deductible payments made to a retirement plan, untaxed Social Security benefits, untaxed income from pensions and annuities, tax-exempt interest income, and any veterans' non-education benefits.
  • Paid expenses, such as income taxes or child support.
  • The value of cash, savings, and checking accounts held under your name or your parents, if applicable.
  • Net worth of your or your parents, if applicable investments, with the exception of retirement plans, and real estate holdings including rental property and second homes but not the primary residence.
  • Net worth of any family business or farm unless farm is also your primary residence.

Once you have collected all of your financial data together, the FAFSA is easy to complete. Just make sure you answer every question unless the FAFSA informs you that it is okay to skip it.

What to Expect after Completing Your FAFSA

Once your FAFSA is submitted, a Student Aid Report (SAR) from the Federal Student Aid Programs office will be sent to you by e-mail if you provided one or regular mail if you did not. Review the SAR and make any needed changes to it online at the same website that it was previously used.

Financial aid first year applicants are usually notified as early as February. Returning students may not receive notification until June or July.

Student Aid Deadlines

Submit the FAFSA as soon as you can after January 1 of the same year that you plan to enter the medical assisting school of your choice. School and state financial aid deadlines may be as early as February or March for the upcoming semester.

Check your deadlines and submit your application as early as possible to get the most out of available financial aid.