Medical Assisting Program

Welcome to the Southwestern College (SWC) Medical Assisting Program's home page.  This page provides information about the program, faculty, staff, and exciting areas of opportunities.  Medical assisting can be divided into three areas:

  • Administrative (front office)
  • Clinical (back office)
  • Insurance (billing and coding)

SWC offers three certificates in specific areas of medical assisting:

Certificates of Achievement:

Students who have earned a certificate of achievement in medical assisting are eligible to complete additional courses needed for the:

Associate of Science Degree

All students who successfully complete the medical assisting program are eligible to sit for the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) Allied Health certification exams in the following areas:

  • Medical Assistant Certification (CCMA)
  • Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
  • Billing & Coding Specialists (CBCS)

A career in medical assisting can lead to many rewarding opportunities, such as, working in hospitals, clinics, research facilities, academia, physicians' offices, insurance companies, legal offices, chiropractic offices, and self-employment.

What is a Medical Assistant?

According to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), "Medical assistants are multi-skilled and allied health professionals specifically educated to work in ambulatory settings performing administrative and clinical duties."  The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) indicates there are several factors that are contributing to the growing need for medical assistants:

  • The increasing number of outpatient and physician offices
  • New and advancing technology
  • The increasing number of "baby boomer" retirements

Medical assitants, both clinical and administrative, assist in keeping the medical office running efficiently and effectively.  Medical assistants are part of the healthcare team and work with physicans, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and clinical researchers.  Medical assistants work under direct supervison of a physician.

The administrative medical assistants' focus is on office procedures, such as answering telephones, scheduling patients, greeting patients, effective communication, handling correspondence, arranging for hospital admissions, scheduling surgical procedures, ensuring good public relations, excellent computer skills, and laboratory services. 

Clinical Medical Assistant:  Responsibilities

Clinical medical assistants have various duties, depending on state law. Some common tasks include taking medical histories, recording vital signs, preparing patients for examinations, assisting the physician during examinations, explaining treatment to patients, injections, sterilization procedures and protocols, and allergy-skin testing.  Medical assisting studens at SWC learn the techniques and procedures of the career in a state-of-the-art, on-site clinic.  SWC medical assistants develop and maintain a professional image and attitude for the San Diego healthcare system.

Medical Insurance Billing and Coding Medical Assistant:  Responsibilities

Medical insurance billers and coders are an integral part of the healthcare team.  Their main objective is to understand the guidelines of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) and utilize those guidelines to analyze and abstract information from the patient medical record.  Medical insurance billers and coders determine the medical necessity for services rendered by the physician or clinical staff and accurately identify and apply correct ICD and CPT guidelines to obtain optimal reimbursement.

Certified Medical Assistants

Certification indicates that a medical assistant meets certain standards of knowledge and skills. It helps to distinguish a formally trained medical assistant from others that have not received formal training.  Certification may lead to a higher salary and/or increased employment opportunities.

Medical Assistant Brochure (PDF)

How to Get Started

Here are some things you need to know to get started on your new career!

  • The Medical Office Professions program does not require completion of prerequisite work. 
  • There is not an application process to begin the program; there is no waitlist. 
  • The MedOp Student Handbook (PDF) describes all aspects of the program in detail. 
  • Classes begin each fall and spring semester.
  • You need a SWC student ID to enroll in classes.
  • If you do not have a student ID, you can obtain one by applying to the college using the main SWC website.
  • Once you have a student ID, call (619) 216-6665 x4851 and ask to make an appointment with a counselor (be sure to have your ID available when you call).
  • A counselor will work with you to create a Student Education Plan (SEP) that maps your entire program from beginning to end.