Investing in Your Future with Medical Terminology
November 3, 2006

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 do you Learn in Medical Terminology?

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.

Online Medical Terminology Screenshot

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's 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'll be able to decipher any medical term.

What Careers do you Need Medical Terminology For?

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

What Things Should I Consider When Choosing a Medical Terminology Course?

Searching for the right medical terminology course can be a daunting task, but here are a couple things to consider:

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.

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.

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.

About the author:

Don Bowlby is the Vice President, Operations at Corexcel, a company specializing in online continuing education and workforce training. For more information about Corexcel and the training materials they offer, visit

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