Investing in Your Future with Medical Terminology

Ask anyone that has taken medical terminology and they'll tell you it is like learning a second language. The method for constructing words is similar and some of the terminology can be confusing. The good news is that there is some logic to how medical terms are constructed and many of the terms will be familiar. If you know the meaning of arthritis or pneumonia, then you already know two medical terms. The use of everyday terms makes medical terminology much easier to learn than a second language.

What Medical Terminology Students Learn

Medical terminology courses teach the basic building blocks of medical terms: prefixes, suffixes and word roots. Regardless of the length or complexity of the term, once you can identify the parts of a term, you can decipher it.

In our classes we teach medical terminology using a unique combination of anatomy and physiology, word building principles, and phonetic "sounds like" pronunciations. Since each term describes a different part of the body, a disease process or condition, you need to understand basic anatomy and learn the terms used to describe the major body parts.

However, it's not practical to memorize every term. That is why courses teach you how to break down complex words into parts you know. This process saves time and will save you many trips to the medical dictionary. Once you master the word building principles you will be able to decipher any medical term.

Careers Using Medical Terminology

Medical terminology courses are required for many careers in the healthcare or pharmaceutical industries. Depending on your career path, you may need the course as a prerequisite for college admission or it may be a part of your curriculum.

Students who complete a medical terminology course find that it gives them a competitive advantage in the workplace. If you're considering pharmaceutical sales, medical billing, medical transcription, court reporting or healthcare-related customer service then a course in medical terminology is a great place to start.

Medical terminology can also open up new possibilities. Whether you are looking for a career change and want to improve your current job performance, learning medical terminology is a great place to start. New careers many students pursue include:

    Medical technologist
    Medical transcription
    Medical billing and coding
    Medical engineering
    Surgical assistant
    Court reporter
    Medical sciences
    Physician's assistant
    Clinical research professional
    Pharmaceutical sales
    Healthcare related customer service
    Selecting a Medical Terminology Course

Searching for the right medical terminology course can be a daunting task. The good news is you have options.

    1. The type of course to take Choices include instructor-led courses, online courses or a mixture of the two which is considered a blended approach. Typically instructor-led courses are only offered to the public by community colleges or universities. Often location and times can be barriers for people who wish to enroll. Organizations teach courses for their employees but this option assumes you already have a job in a company that provides this kind of benefit. If neither of these options fit your lifestyle an online medical terminology course might be your best option.

    2. Credentials of the organization offering the course

    Typically these organizations are accredited and provide both instructor-led and online versions of the course. Accreditation is important because it demonstrates that the organization has taken the time to apply for accreditation and has typically been through a lengthy review process. Accredited organizations submit to frequent site visits from their accrediting bodies to review their educational design processes. These organizations are also required to keep records for a number of years. This is important in case you need a transcript or a duplicate certificate for proof of completion. Accreditation for these courses typically comes in two forms.

    3. Form of accreditation

    Students can earn professional CEUs for a course or they can earn college credit. Some companies offer both options but the fee for the college credit is typically over and above the normal course price. Courses are priced this way to keep costs down for students who only need professional CEUs and not college credit. Often the college credit is a straight pass through to the student and averages about $100-$150 per credit hour. College credit is also something to consider if you want to be reimbursed by your employer. Usually employers will only reimburse for courses that carry college credit. In these cases the additional cost is not a factor.

Learning medical terminology can be an extremely valuable experience. Mastering word building principles will make the process easier and help you to retain the knowledge for a long time to come. Keep in mind to use a reputable accredited company and pick a course delivery option that's right for you.

Don Bowlby is the Vice President, Operations at Corexcel -, a company specializing in online continuing education and workplace training.

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