If you’ve always been interested in medicine but have not had the time, money or inclination to pursue a career as a physician, you can still become an integral member of a healthcare team. By utilizing the power of the Internet, education is now even more accessible than in previous years.
There are a multitude of online medical assistant programs and physician assistant programs available to provide you with the skills and knowledge required to start a career in the medical field. With either one of these online degrees, you can become prepared to help nurses and physicians provide skilled and compassionate care to those in need.
Learn the Difference
Before selecting between online physician assistant programs and medical assistant programs, it is important to determine the difference between the two professions. While the titles are similar, medical assistants and physician assistances have vastly differing responsibilities and levels of education that are required
Medical assistants are non-licensed healthcare professionals who work under the supervision of doctors, providing clinical and administrative assistance that helps to ensure things run smoothly in the medical setting. Education for medical assistants usually last one to two years, and depending on the type of program, will either result in a certificate or associate’s degree. Online medical assistant programs provide training in how to:
- Take vital signs
- Administer EKGs
- Give injections
- Prepare examination rooms
- Maintain patient records
- Oversee billing and appointment scheduling
By contrast, physician assistants operate exclusively in the clinical context in a much more complex and intensive manner, providing preventative, diagnostic, and therapeutic healthcare services to patients. The training during online physician assistant programs includes how to:
- Make diagnoses
- Take medical histories
- Read x-rays and tests
- Examine patients
To become a physician assistant, you must have healthcare experience, a degree at the associate’s, baccalaureate or master’s level, and sit for the PA exam. Physician assistants may specialize in a number of fields, including pediatrics, family medicine, geriatrics, and emergency medicine.
Starting Your Career
Whichever path you ultimately decide to take, the career prospects are promising for both graduates of online medical assistant programs, as well as though who elect to pursue online physician assistant programs. According to the US Department of Labor, there were more than 483,000 medical assistant jobs in 2008, and that number is expected to expand in the coming years.
The Department of Labor asserts, “Employment is projected to grow faster than average, ranking medical assistants among the fastest growing occupations over the 2008-2018 decade.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical salary for a medical assistant ranges from $22,000 to $37,000 annually.
Because the level of training is much higher for a physician assistant and the responsibilities far greater, annual salaries are higher than those of medical assistants. The average first-year salary for a physician assistant is $60,000. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the employment rate for physician assistants will increase by 27% over the next fifteen years, creating more than 83,000 job opportunities.
Choosing Between the Two
Whether you’re interested in becoming a medical assistant or a physician assistant, there are a number of schools offering online university degrees in both fields, providing you with a convenient way to pursue your career. Through distance learning, you can take classes at your own rate and on your own schedule without having to quit your current job or relocate to attend school. Choose among the available online physician assistant and medical assistant programs that are available, and begin your education today!