5 Benefits of a Medical Assistant Externship or Internship

medical assistant trainingParticipating in an externship is a great opportunity to experience your new career field

Many medical assistant schools offer externships (also called internships) at the end of a student’s training. These positions offer students a chance to work in their new career field, giving them valuable hands-on experience before they apply for their first job. While most externships are unpaid, they are still very important to your career. Read more to find out how externships can be beneficial to you.

1. Real-world work experience—with supervision

Learning in the classroom or the student laboratory is one thing, but learning on the job is another. During your medical assistant training, you might practice blood draws on other students, and you may have learned to do injections on medical dummies. These are important learning experiences. But during your internship, you will have the opportunity to work with actual patients. For the first time, you will truly be using your new skills in the workplace. What’s more, you will be under the direction of a supervisor who can help you if you are nervous or unsure. In this way, the externship is a great way to take your first step into your new field.

2. Exposure to a sample workplace

Medical assistants work in many different healthcare facilities—from small medical offices, to specialty offices, to busy outpatient centers, to large hospitals. During your externship, you will get to experience working in one of these settings, and it will help you determine what sort of job might be best for you. You can talk to other medical assistants on the job, and find out from their experiences what kind of healthcare facility you might like the most when you begin your job search.

3. Practice your professional behavior

There’s more to being a good medical assistant than learning the clinical skills. You also need to exhibit professional behavior, such as showing up to work on time, keeping a neat appearance, treating patients and co-workers respectfully, following through on your responsibilities, and taking your work seriously. You have probably reviewed these behaviors during your career training, and your externship is your first opportunity to practice the type of professional behavior that is expected on the job. Don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor for feedback on how you are doing. Practicing your professional behavior on your externship will help you when it comes time for job references and securing job leads.

4. Opportunity to receive mentorship and advice

During your medical assistant training, you probably received important advice from your instructors and supervisors. Your externship is another opportunity to learn from those with more experience. Your externship supervisor, as well as other medical assistants or nursing staff, are important resources for you. Try to learn as much as you can about how the healthcare facility works, what protocols you need to follow, what job skills you need to improve on, how to interact successfully with patients, and how to communicate effectively with your co-workers and superiors. Take the time to ask others how they got their start, where they found their first job, and what advice they would have for you. Ask them to tell you how you are doing, and what suggestions they would have for you to improve. If you look at your externship as an opportunity to learn from others, you can gain guidance that can start your career off on the right foot.

5. Start networking

Developing a network of professionals in your new career field is important for you as you begin a job search; and in fact, a career network is something that you should develop and maintain throughout your entire career. The first place to start is your career training school. Your school’s instructors and career services advisors can steer you in the right direction and provide job references and possibly job leads for you. The next place is your externship. At your externship you have the opportunity to meet people who are currently working in the field you want to enter. Be sure to make a good impression on the people you meet, and demonstrate your commitment through hard work. Get to know the names of your co-workers, and ask for their contact information so that you can keep in touch with them after your externship is over. The more people you know, the more likely you are to hear of job leads and other professionals opportunities.

With these benefits in mind, there are many reasons to take your externship seriously. Good luck on this first step into your new career!


This article was provided by the Harris School of Business. The Harris School provides over 10 career training pathways, including medical assistant, dental assistant, massage therapist, medical biller and coder (health claims specialist), and surgical technician. Externships and internships are an important part of all of the career-focused training programs at the Harris School. With campuses located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut, the Harris School is proud to serve the Delaware Valley region and beyond. For more information, contact the Harris School, or visit our homepage.