How Hard is Medical Assistant School – (10 Biggest Challenges & How to Overcome)


Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA


Are you interested in a medical career and considering going to medical assistant school? Maybe you thought of becoming a medical assistant but can’t help but wonder, “How hard is medical assistant school?” If that sounds like you, you should keep reading!

In this article, I will tell you about the 10 biggest challenges you will face in medical assistant school and how to successfully overcome them. With the information I give you, you can decide if going to medical assistant school is something you want to do or if another career path is the best option for you.



What Topics are Covered in Medical Assistant School?


In medical assistant school, you will learn about several topics. Although the curriculum plans may vary from school to school, most feature the same type of classes. The following are some examples of the classes you will take.

• Human Anatomy and Physiology: In this class, you will learn about the structure and function of the human body. You will learn about body systems, the organs in the systems, and how they all work together.
• Medical Terminology: Your medical terminology class will teach the principles of medical words and help you develop an extensive medical vocabulary. This class is essential because you will use medical terminology when documenting about patients and collaborating with healthcare team members.
• Medical Billing/Coding: Each diagnosis and treatment is billed according to diagnosis codes. In medical assistant school, you will learn basic coding techniques.
• Clinical Patient Care and Assessment: In this class, you will learn several aspects of clinical patient care. For instance, you will learn to take vital signs, give injections, perform a urinalysis, and perform basic wound care.
• Phlebotomy: In phlebotomy, you will learn to obtain blood samples to perform specific diagnostic tests.
• EKG Techniques: Also known as electrocardiogram, an EKG is used to measure the heart's electrical activity. In medical assistant school, you will learn the principles of EKG testing and gain an understanding of the basic interpretation of EKG examinations.
• Medical Law and Ethics: In medical assistant school, you will also learn valuable information about the legal relationships between patients and care providers. You will learn about ethical issues, informed consent, and professional attitudes.
• Infection Control: Infection control is everyone’s responsibility, and in medical assistant school, you will learn how to implement infection control measures to protect yourself, your patients, and your colleagues. You will learn about precautionary measures to prevent the spread of infection, the use of personal protective equipment, and strategies to educate patients about reducing the risk of spreading infection.



Is Medical Assistant School Hard?


Medical assistant school covers a lot of information relatively quickly, making it challenging. However, nothing truly rewarding comes without a challenge. If you are motivated, work hard, and stay committed to studying and your professional ambitions, you can succeed and reach your goals in medical assistant school.



What Makes Medical Assistant School Hard?

(The following are the 10 biggest challenges you will face in Medical Assistant Schools and ways you can successfully overcome them.)


CHALLENGE #1: Deciding Where to Go to School


About the Challenge:

Believe it or not, one of the biggest challenges that makes medical assistant school hard is figuring out which school you want to attend. There are non-profit and for-profit institutions that offer medical assistant programs. Some schools only have day classes, while others may offer day and evening classes or a mixture of both. In addition to scheduling differences, you must consider the cost of the programs, whether the school has a good retention rate, and what kind of support you will have from faculty and staff.

How to Overcome:

Anytime you consider going to school, you can think of a million questions, which can leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed. While deciding where to go to school can be challenging, you can easily overcome this challenge. I recommend making a list of things that are important to you. For example, do you need a part-time or full-time program, and do you prefer daytime classes or going to school in the evening? Do you need financial support to help pay for your program?

If you know what you want and what you can contribute to your education as far as time and money goes, you can narrow down your search for the right school. Once you get a list of a few schools that interest you, consider visiting an academic advisor or program director to get a feel for what they offer and see if you are a good fit for their program.


CHALLENGE #2: Your mindset coming into the program.


About the Challenge:

One thing that makes medical assistant school hard is starting the program with the wrong mindset. Thinking negatively or worrying about the program's challenges can outweigh the program's positive aspects and make it more challenging. This program takes time and dedication if you want to do well and graduate.

How to Overcome:

Having a positive mindset is something you must be intentional about. If no one else tells you, tell yourself you can do this. The more you speak positivity into your life, the more confident you will become, removing self-doubt and creating an atmosphere for success.

Challenges may come your way, but how you face them determines your success. Keep your eye on why you want this career, and remember the healthcare field needs you. Look at your challenges and hardships as opportunities for growing and learning.


CHALLENGE #3: Balancing School, Work, and Your Personal Life


About the Challenge:

One of the things that makes medical assistant school hard is learning to find a balance between school, work, family, and other things in your personal life. Because the curriculum is so rigorous, you must dedicate time to study. Depending on how quickly you learn content or how much time you need to study, you may feel you do not have time for your family, children, job, or other responsibilities that require your commitment. If you are not prepared, you can become overwhelmed.

How to Overcome:

Overcoming the challenge of the time demands of medical assistant school takes effort, but you can do it. First, figure out how much time you are willing to dedicate to your education and set clear goals for yourself. It is also important to realize that you must make sacrifices in your personal life. Remember, though, that this temporary inconvenience will lead to more freedom later.

Create a schedule and maintain it. You may find it easier to prioritize your tasks by investing in a planner to help you keep up with important dates and deadlines. Whether you use a digital planner or one you carry in your backpack or purse, having things written down can help you stay on track.


CHALLENGE #4: There is So Much to Learn!!


About the Challenge:

The curriculum in medical assistant school can be very overwhelming. You will be required to learn a lot of content in a brief period of time. Sometimes, the amount of material you must learn may feel impossible to grasp or retain.

How to Overcome:

As a medical assistant, it is your professional duty to care for patients, and knowing that can feel overwhelming. To overcome the challenge, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is what you want to accomplish and that you can succeed. This is where your dedication, motivation, and a strict study schedule come into play. If you create a study schedule with enough time dedicated to your studies each day, you will be more likely to stay caught up and can avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Also, if you feel caught up, do not let that be a reason to stop. Instead, consider studying and reading a few chapters in your book a little early in your spare time at home. Doing this will give you some insight beforehand. You can never be too prepared!


CHALLENGE #5: The Hands-On Training is Intense!


About the Challenge:

In medical assistant school, you not only learn a lot of content from textbooks and lectures, but you also have intense hands-on training! You will learn several new skills, including how to take vital signs, collect blood and urine samples, perform a finger stick to check blood glucose levels, perform venipunctures, and give injections and other medications. The mere thought of the hands-on training is enough to make anyone nervous and feel challenged!

How to Overcome:

One way to overcome this challenge is to remind yourself that no one expects you to know everything. Although the hands-on training is intense, it is like that for a reason. The intense training is necessary to prepare you so you can provide high-quality patient care and avoid crucial mistakes that could put your patients, yourself, or your team at risk.

One thing I always told my students is that it is better to make mistakes and learn in school than not to try at all. If you do make mistakes, let it motivate you to keep trying until you get it right. Do not let mistakes or mishaps intimidate you. Instead, look at it as an opportunity that leads you one step closer to your career as a medical assistant.


CHALLENGE #6: Overcoming Performance Anxiety


About the Challenge:

Medical assistant school is hard because you will be required to perform various tasks in front of others. For example, you must draw blood, check vital signs, and give injections. My daughter, Gracie, has dealt with social and performance anxiety for years. She is actually in medical assistant school now and told me that doing procedures in front of her peers was nerve-wracking because she was learning unfamiliar skills. She felt intimidated at first by even simple tasks. For Gracie and anyone else with performance anxiety, it often leads to feeling pressure to do everything perfectly, even on the first try.

How to Overcome:

One thing Gracie told me is that she decided to use trial and error to lead her to success. She does that by allowing fear, anxiety, and a desire to succeed motivate her to accept correction and learn to perfect tasks. She told me today, "When I'm worried about performing well, I remind myself of something Papaw always says, 'You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take.'"

You cannot let the fear of others seeing you fail stop you from trying. Never be afraid to take risks that will help you develop new skills, acquire new knowledge, or become successful. Accept that you will make mistakes during your training, but it can result in something positive by helping you develop more confidence and build self-trust.


CHALLENGE #7: Feeling Like You Are in Competition with Classmates


About the Challenge:

As a nurse and allied health instructor, I have seen many instances when students feel they are in competition with one another. Several factors can leave you feeling this way. You may feel that other classmates are more fast-paced or advanced in certain subjects than you are, which can often be very discouraging.

Being self-conscious about your abilities can majorly affect your classroom and practice performance. While some competition can be good and motivate you, if the competition is unhealthy, it can make the medical assistant program challenging.

How to Overcome:

The best way to overcome this challenge is to think of your classmates as your team. You are all in school to learn, and you can help one another. It is also important to realize that someone else's ability to master a skill or retain information easily does not make you less capable. Even if you must psych yourself up at first, come to class confident in who you are and what you can accomplish.

Be intentional about interacting with your classmates as much as possible in the classroom and lab. The more you get to know one another, the more you will feel part of a team, and you can motivate one another with healthy competition. Plus, learning to do this now will help you later in your career when you get a job working with others in the medical field.


CHALLENGE #8: Paying for the Program


About the Challenge:

Medical assistant school is hard because now you not only have to learn tons of material and develop new skills, but you also have to worry about how you will pay for the program. Depending on where you go to school, a medical assistant program can cost anywhere from $1,500 to more than $15,000! If you are like me and my daughter, you probably do not have an extra $15k sitting around to drop on a tuition bill.

How to Overcome:

Although medical assistant school can be expensive, there are options to help with the expense. Many schools offer scholarships or work-study programs. Also, there are lots of private grants and scholarships you can apply for. I recommend anyone considering going to medical assistant school to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application will help determine if you qualify for federal grants or loans to help pay for your program.


CHALLENGE #9: Self-Care??? Are You Serious???


About the Challenge:

One thing that makes medical assistant school hard is that you may feel you have little time to care for yourself and the things that are important to you. You might find yourself sacrificing your personal life and relationships to reach your career goals. School is time-consuming and can be mentally and physically draining, which could leave you feeling burned out.

How to Overcome:

While staying on top of your studies is important, self-care is equally as important. I always tell students and the people I work with that it is only possible for us to take good care of patients if we care for ourselves first.

You can practice self-care by implementing some simple things. For example, create a schedule that allows time for rest, sleep, and personal/family time. Eat a well-balanced diet and get some exercise. You may not be able to go to the gym five days a week, but you can take a short walk. Unplug from electronics at least an hour before bed so your mind can relax and you can fall asleep. Allow yourself to take a break whenever you need one, and do not beat yourself up if you do.


CHALLENGE #10: Figuring Out Where You Want to Work After You Graduate


About the Challenge:

Another challenge that makes medical assistant school hard is knowing that you must find a job after graduation! The medical field can be competitive, and depending on your goals and previous work or academic experience, you may not know where to start to find the perfect job.

How to Overcome:

I like to remind students that looking at several job options is okay. Think about the setting where you believe you will be most comfortable. For example, would you like the ease of a Monday through Friday job? If so, a physician's office or outpatient clinic could be a great option. A hospital could be a good choice if you like more fast-paced work and do not mind working different shifts. You can search online for available jobs near where you want to work.

Be sure to update your resume to include the credentials you earn in medical assistant school and list your skills to make your resume stand out. Also, be sure your resume has good references. Consider asking one or two of your medical assistant instructors if you can use them as a reference, as they can speak to your likelihood of success in the medical assistant role. Prepare for interviews by practicing interview questions and answers to help build your confidence. The important thing is to remember that the skills and knowledge you gain in medical assistant school are valuable. So, you will have plenty of options!



My Final Thoughts


If you are considering becoming a medical assistant, it is natural to wonder, "How hard is medical assistant school?” In this article, you found answers to that question as I shared the 10 biggest challenges you will face in medical assistant school and how to successfully overcome them. Although medical assistant school has many challenges, you can face them head-on and turn them into positive learning experiences.

I encourage you to remember that nothing extraordinary comes without facing and overcoming difficulties. If you genuinely want to become a medical assistant and you are willing to put in hard work and dedication, you can overcome the challenges, accomplish your goals, and have a career to be proud of! As someone who has been in the healthcare industry for nearly 30 years, I can tell you that the medical field needs passionate, dedicated people like you!



Frequently Asked Questions Answered


1. How Long Does Medical Assistant School Take?

While program length varies, most medical assistant schools take 9-12 months to complete depending on the school.


2. What Are The Hardest Classes In Medical Assistant School?

Every student has a preference of which classes are hardest and easiest. Most students say the hardest classes in medical assistant school are Anatomy and Physiology, Medical Billing and Coding, and Clinical Assessment.


3. How Many Hours Do I Need To Study In Medical Assistant School?

Every student learns differently. The time you need to study in school may vary from what a classmate requires. Generally, most colleges suggest that students dedicate three hours of study time each week for each credit hour they are enrolled in. For example, if you are enrolled in 10 credit hours, you should prepare to spend 30 hours per week studying in medical assistant school.


4. Is It Hard To Work During Medical Assistant School?

Working in medical assistant school can be challenging, but it is possible. Some schools have flexible schedules, allowing you to take day or evening classes, which could leave time for a job. Just remember to factor in the amount of time you need to study when choosing whether to work and whether part-time or full-time work is best.


5. What Next After Failing Medical Assistant School?

The truth is that failing medical assistant school is not the end of the world. If you fail, take time to consider your goals and decide if trying again is something you want to do. If you want to become a medical assistant, talk to your advisor and instructors and try again! If you decide becoming a medical assistant is too much, there are many options for other healthcare careers such as a phlebotomist, CNA, or LPN/LVN you can consider.



List of Sources Used for This Article


1. “How to Overcome the Cycle of Performance Anxiety” (https://psychcentral.com)
2. “CBD College’s Top 5 Tips to Achieve Your Optimal Work/School/Life Balance” (www.cbd.edu)
3. “7 Self-Care Tips for College Students” (www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org)


Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Darby Faubion is a nurse and allied health instructor with over 20 years of clinical experience. Her work history includes clinical experience in pediatrics, mental health, addiction and behavioral disorders, geriatrics, wound management, and communicable disease. Darby has worked in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home health and hospice agencies. Darby also has experience as a nursing and allied health educator at both community college and university levels. Her love for nursing and nursing education led to her becoming a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach.