Medical assistants are one of the most important workers in healthcare offices. They work closely with all other medical professionals to ensure a smooth workflow and successful delivery of patient care. Because of this, it’s important that medical assistants be competent, knowledgeable, and have the proper training to be successful. In order to gain employment, prospective medical assistants may need to complete several steps, including finishing a training program, getting formally certified, and gaining work experience.

In short, getting certified in Arizona as a medical assistant can take anywhere from four months to two years. The length of the program depends on the specific school and the type of degree/certification that is being pursued. Medical assisting programs are most frequently offered by local community colleges and vocational schools.

Oftentimes the quickest way to qualify for certification is by attending a vocational school (also called career and trade schools). Programs in these schools are up to a year long, although they can be as short as four months. In the state of Arizona, these schools offer externships where students can get work experience before graduating and beginning the search for employment.  Altrain Medical and Dental Assisting Academy is a vocational school located in Glendale, Arizona.  They are licensed by the Arizona Department of Private Postsecondary Education to offer the first four-month Medical Assistant Training Program in the State of Arizona. Graduates receive a Certificate of Completion in Medical Assisting after passing the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA).  The program focuses on hands-on training and career readiness.

Programs at community colleges vary in length and may require getting a two-year associates degree with a focus on medical assisting. If this is the case, the degree coursework includes general education classes as well as specific medical assisting classes. It is important to note that most schools require being 18 years of age and having a high school diploma or GED to be eligible to enroll. However, on occasion, high schools may offer two-year dual enrollment programs with local community colleges where students can earn their certification by the time they graduate. Community colleges can also offer shorter programs that are typically a minimum of nine months long. These programs exclude general education coursework and focus only on topics that are relevant to working as a medical assistant.

After completing classroom training and an externship at either a community college or vocational school, students must be formally certified in medical assisting to be eligible for employment. In the state of Arizona, certification entails taking a standardized exam either just before or just after the completion of a training program. Depending on the type of certification, this must be renewed every two to five years.  Once completed, students are on their way to a long and rewarding career in the medical field.