Medical Certificate, Diploma and Certification Program Overviews

Learn about certificate and diploma programs that prepare students to work as phlebotomists, radiologic technologists, medical assistants and sonographers. Find out about professional certification options for each of these careers.

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Essential Information

Medical certificate programs can be found in phlebotomy and radiologic technology, among other fields. Medical diploma programs in medical assisting and diagnostic medical sonography are available as well. Each medical certificate or diploma program consists of lectures, clinical courses and externship experiences. Program graduates can become certified in their medical specialty through professional organizations.


Phlebotomist Certificate

A phlebotomy certificate course typically lasts 4-6 months, during which time students learn to draw blood from veins for testing or treatment. Students interested in receiving medical certification as a phlebotomist must have a high school diploma or GED. Graduates of a phlebotomy certificate program are prepared for entry-level employment in labs, clinics, hospitals and blood banks.

Program Coursework

Students participate in hands-on lab work and at least one professional work experience. Medical topics include:

  • Health care legalities and ethics
  • Circulatory system
  • Blood collection
  • Specimen handling
  • Medical vocabulary

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

During the 2010-2020 time period, employment of medical and clinical laboratory technicians is predicted to rise 15%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). In 2012, phlebotomists across the U.S. earned an average yearly salary of $30,910, according to the BLS.

Professional Certification and Continuing Education

Most states require phlebotomists to pass a practical, clinical test to obtain licensure. Voluntary certifications are also offered through the National Phlebotomy Association and the American Medical Technologists organization. Certification renewal is usually contingent on the completion of continuing education.

Radiologic Technologist (RT) Certificate

Radiologic techs, also known as radiographers, take and develop x-rays and administer non-radioactive materials into a patient's blood stream for diagnostic purposes. Working with physicians, radiologic technicians prepare patients and operate the diagnostic equipment. These medical certificate programs can be completed in approximately 24 months.

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants to a radiology certificate program may be required to have a high school diploma or GED. These medical students often have to complete prerequisite courses in clinical terminology, anatomy and physiology, biology and computers.

Program Coursework

Radiologic technician students learn general radiology procedures in the certificate programs and specialize in areas like mammography or computed tomography. Radiology certificate students must typically earn a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher to complete the program successfully. Topics of study include:

  • Medical safety procedures
  • Radiologic apparatus operations
  • Patient care and positioning
  • Disease and the body
  • Medical laws

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Employment of radiologic technologists and technicians is expected to rise 28% from 2010-2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reported that in 2012, radiologic technologists made an average annual salary of $56,450.

Professional Certification and Continuing Education

While the majority of states require radiologic techs to obtain licensure, graduates of a certificate program can also earn voluntary certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. ARRT's medical certification requires applicants to have a high school diploma, complete an accredited radiologic technology program and pass the organization's exam. While certification is voluntary, many employers require radiologic technologists to be certified. Certification is renewable every two years, provided the individual completes 24 hours of continuing medical education.

Medical Assistant Diploma

The duties of a medical assistant depend on the size of the practice, office location and specialty. For the most part, medical assistants perform administrative and general clinical tasks, such as venipuncture, vital sign assessments and medication distribution. Medical assistant diploma programs take approximately 18 months to complete.

Educational Prerequisites

A high school diploma or GED and standardized test scores are usually required. Prerequisite courses in algebra, biology and typing may be necessary.

Program Coursework

At the diploma level, medical assistant students earn professional work experience in clinics, doctors' offices and hospitals. Medical assistant courses cover:

  • Clinical terminology
  • First aid and CPR
  • Medical record keeping
  • Medical office management software
  • Accounting

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2012, the average annual salary for a medical assistant in the U.S. was $30,550, according to the BLS. Employment of medical assistants was expected to climb 31%, faster than the national average, over the 2010-2020 decade, according to BLS employment forecasts.

Professional Certification and Continuing Education

In order to become a certified medical assistant (CMA), an individual must have a high school diploma or a GED, have graduated from an accredited medical assistant program and pass the American Association of Medical Assistants' CMA examination. CMAs have to renew certification every five years by earning continuing education credits or by taking a recertification examination.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Diploma

Diagnostic medical sonographers use computer technology to produce images of the human body. They assist physicians in diagnosing and monitoring patient conditions with ultrasound and other non-radiographic imaging tools. Diploma programs take 1-2 years to complete.

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants to a diploma program in medical sonography must have a high school diploma or GED. Students may have to take college-level courses in anatomy, biology and medical terminology before being admitted to this type of diploma program.

Program Coursework

Diploma participants participate in seminars, lab work and clinical practica. Classes cover:

  • Strategies for taking ultrasounds
  • Diagnostic imaging of the abdomen
  • Doppler imaging techniques
  • Medical sonography for pregnant women
  • Interpreting scans

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The 2012 average annual salary for diagnostic medical sonographers was $66,360, according to the BLS. Additionally, employment of medical sonographers was predicted to increase by 44% from 2010-2020, which is much faster than average.

Professional Certification and Continuing Education

Graduates of an accredited diagnostic sonography program can sit for the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers exam. Upon successful completion of the test, applicants earn the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer credential, with specialty accreditations available in gynecological, abdominal, breast, fetal and brain sonography. To maintain certification, sonographers must meet continuing education requirements every three years and pay an annual fee.

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