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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Medical Assisting vs. Medical Office: Which program is right for you?

January 6, 2015

Working with a dedicated medical team that serves the health needs of others is a rewarding career you might be considering. But figuring out exactly where you fit in that environment may leave you with a great big question mark.

Front office, back office…or some of each? We can help you decide.

To start things off, take a good look at yourself. To be a part of any medical care team – clinical or administrative – one thing is essential: Good communication skills.

Most positions within a medical facility work with patients on some level. That means you will need to be sensitive, aware and responsive to the needs and feelings of others, as they deal with medical issues large and small. Customer service is never more important than during this interaction.

There are two main areas of service in the medical community: clinical and administrative. San Joaquin Valley College has programs that provide entry into each of these areas, at different levels.

What’s the Difference Between Clinical Medical Assistants and Medical Administrative Assistants?

The main focus of a clinical medical assistant is the clinical aspects of a health practice, which may include preparing patients for medical examinations, documenting vital signs and medical histories, assisting physicians, performing minor treatments and providing in-person or over-the-phone home care instructions. Administrative medical assistants, on the other hand, mostly perform administrative tasks such as medical billing and coding, scheduling appointments, processing insurance claims and managing medical records.

Administrative and clinical medical assistants play pivotal roles in physicians’ offices, and no matter what career path you choose, San Joaquin Valley College has programs that provide entry into each of these areas, at different levels.

Medical Assistant school student practicing back office proceduresClinical or “Back Office” Medical Assistant

SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting (CMA) 9-month Certificate program provides students with the basic training required to work in a medical office. Emphasis is placed on clinical or back office education and training in preparation for direct patient care.

Click to learn more about SJVC’s Medical Assistant program.




Medical Office program training front office assistantsMedical Office: Administrative or “Front Office”

SJVC’s 9-month, Certificate-level Medical Office Administration (MOA) program offers required training for an administrative support position in the front office of a medical facility.

Click to learn more about SJVC’s Medical Office program.



The chart below will give you a closer look at specific information regarding program courses, outcomes and potential career positions for each of the medical programs:


Medical Assisting vs. Medical Office

Medical AssistingMedical Office
Program ContentLectures and labs emphasize hands-on learning techniques and include:

  • Patient care
  • Medical office procedures
  • Laboratory skills


Students enrolled in Medical Office programs learn:

  • Medical insurance principles
  • Medical office operations
  • Human relations
  • Medical law and regulations
Career PreparationJob duties graduates can expect to perform include:

  • Take and record vital signs
  • Prepare patients for exams
  • Change dressings and remove sutures
  • Draw blood/venipuncture
  • Maintain patient records
  • Process insurance forms
Medical Office administrators might perform many of the following job duties:

  • Process healthcare paperwork
  • Schedule patient procedures and appointments
  • Enter patient and treatment data into computers
  • Process medical billing information
  • Maintain medical facility records
  • Perform clerical work in medical settings
  • Prepare official health documents or records
Program OutcomesCMA graduates who earn their Certificates are eligible to sit for the following examinations:

  • CCBMA’s California Certified Medical Assistant examination
  • NCCT’s National Certified Medical Assistant examination
  • NHA’s Certified Clinical Medical Assistant examination
Graduates are eligible to take one of several national certification examinations to become nationally certified. Graduates also earn Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), AHA-Adult & Infant CPR, and First Aid Certification.
 CareersSJVC’s Medical Assisting graduates can work as Medical Assistants in environments such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, medical clinics and more.SJVC Medical Office graduates are ready to work in the office of several types of medical facilities, including dental offices, hospitals, doctors’ offices and more.



Learn More About Medical Assisting

Learn more about a career as a medical assistant with our free guide.

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