Shannon McClain – Student Highlight

Like many students before her, Shannon McClain attended a local community college before coming to United Career Institute. When asked what made United different than her previous school, Shannon said, “the staff at UCI are friendly and, all the classes are relevant.” United has six-week modules, this allows classes to go by quickly while ensuring that all the information they learn applies to the workplace.

When asked why she chose medical assisting, Shannon said, “I have a passion for helping others.” Her mom is also a medical assistant and an alumna of our Mount Braddock campus, so Shannon has a good understanding of the profession. 

Shannon’s favorite class in the program has been Anatomy and Physiology because she, “loves learning the body and body systems.” Anatomy and Physiology provide United students with a great understanding of how the body works and various diseases and disorders they will see while working as a medical assistant.

Five years from now, Shannon sees herself as a graduate of United Career Institute, owning her own home, working in a cancer center, and “striving to be the best she can be at 25!”

To learn more about United Career Institute’s Medical Assisting program, request information here!

The Emerging Trend of Skills-Based Learning

According to a LinkedIn research study, the upward trend of skills-based hiring continues to grow in the United States, which has led to another emerging trend of skills-based learning. The benefits of skills-based learning should not be discounted, especially since 77% of hiring professionals in the LinkedIn study stated that they are hiring candidates based on their skills and competencies.

This week at United, we’re sharing all about skills-based learning and the ways you can benefit from it. Read on to find out all about it!

What Is Skills-Based Learning?

Skills-based learning teaches students new concepts and valuable knowledge in the classroom that can then be applied to real-life scenarios. By emphasizing skills and hands-on training, students learn to use the competencies they’ve learned in various situations like externships, hands-on practice, and interactive labs, which can benefit them in their careers.

Why So Much Focus on Skills?

Hiring candidates who already possess the skills required to do the job is more cost-effective for employers, saving them money and time because they don’t have to train new employees. When employers hire qualified candidates who are already trained, they can perform their specific skills from the very first day.

With the ever-increasing advancement of technology, skills-based learning allows individuals to stay updated regarding best practices, trends, and the technology itself in their area of expertise. One example is the nursing field. Nurses must have the latest skills and know-how to apply them in order to efficiently and safely care for their patients.

The skills required for various job markets are always changing. Learning and practicing hands-on skills in the classroom helps bridge the gap between what employers need and the skills students will have when they graduate.

What Are the Benefits of This?

Skills-based learning will benefit students by enabling them to take only the classes needed for their chosen field of study. This allows you to complete your degree in less time because you don’t have to spend years taking general education classes.

Additionally, many students are better suited for learning in a hands-on environment instead of just listening to a lecturer talk. This enables students to learn new skills faster and practice their critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills.

At United, our degree and diploma programs are designed to meet the needs of local employers, so students in our career training classes are prepared for professional, skills-based certifications that are career-specific. As part of their program, students also complete an externship, allowing them to apply the skills they’ve learned in real-life situations. Having the right skills and an externship helps students gain important work experience and is beneficial in helping them stand out when they enter the job market.

How Do You Choose the Right Program?

With so many options available, choosing the right school or training program that offers great skills-based learning can be confusing. United Career Institute makes it easy to find a program that teaches the skills you’ll need for the career you want to pursue. For example, if you’re interested in healthcare and would like to work as a medical assistant, then you’ll need a program that specializes in the skills that medical assistants utilize every day, including performing lab tests, taking vital signs, and drawing blood.

You should also choose a program that includes practical ways to practice your skills while gaining valuable experience, such as interactive labs, hands-on training, an externship experience, and certification or license preparation, which are included in our degree programs here at United.

Are you ready to enroll in a career training program that gives you the hands-on experience and skills-based learning you need to succeed? We are here to help you get started!

Discover our fast-track healthcare training programs in Medical Assisting, Medical Billing and Coding, and Practical Nursing today! Contact us now to start your journey to a great career!

Katelyn Burgman – Student Highlight

Before attending United Career Institute’s Medical Assisting program, Katelyn Burgman, like many before her, attended a local community college to pursue a radiology technician program. Katelyn did not have an enjoyable experience and quickly realized that she wanted to go into a field doing something she “actually enjoyed instead of just settling for a job,” and she landed at United Career Institute.

When asked why she chose United, Katelyn quickly responded, “I want to be a nurse, but I chose to get my MA first so I can have options and more knowledge of the medical field.”  Katelyn’s favorite part of attending United Career Institute is that the presented material isn’t overwhelming, and assistance is available.  Her favorite classes so far have been her three clinical courses because they provide a hands-on experience, and Katelyn is a hands-on learner.

When it comes to her favorite instructor, Katelyn couldn’t choose a specific one. “All of my instructors have shown caring and understanding, and I like them all in different ways.” This comes as no surprise, as the Medical Assisting program staff truly puts the student first, as does anyone at United.

Upon completion of her externship, Katelyn doesn’t have a particular specialty in mind but knows with the options available to medical assistant graduates; the possibilities are plentiful. After graduation, Katelyn sees herself being happy with the path she chose and having her life on track. We can’t wait to see what successes Katelyn has in her future as a medical assistant!

The Return to Campus

As more and more people get vaccinated, and things start opening back up, we are all transitioning back to our in-person lives. Our children are returning to school, many people have returned to their in-person jobs, and schools are bringing students back on campus.

Here at United Career Institute, we are so excited for our students to return to campus. Like before, there are many positive advantages of on-campus learning. When you enroll in a career-focused degree program here at United, you enjoy an interactive education, receive a variety of in-person support, and build great connections.

Interactive Education


Students who choose United to start their path to a successful career have an interactive educational experience. Our class sizes are small and intimate, so you receive personal attention and instruction from your teachers. We understand that each student has unique needs and learning preferences, so we work with you to ensure you have the support needed to excel in your classes.

While completing your healthcare degree program, you will learn hands-on skills to apply directly when you start your career. Our training programs include interactive labs that allow you to practice these skills with the guidance of your experienced instructors.

You also have the opportunity to complete an externship, providing you with real-world experience in your chosen career field. This on-the-job experience in a real healthcare setting gives you the confidence and credentials to set you up for success when applying for jobs.

In-Person Support

As you complete your interactive educational experience, we offer a variety of in-person support at both of our campuses. From the moment you first reach out to us, our helpful admissions team will guide you through the process of enrolling in school. From filling out your application to completing your FAFSA to registering for classes, we are here to help!

Once you are enrolled and begin your healthcare training program, our academic team will support you every step of the way as you complete your degree. We offer academic advising, tutoring services, help developing your study and test-taking skills, and help setting your academic goals.

As you get closer to completing your degree program, our career services team helps you prepare to succeed in getting a job and beyond. Your dedicated career services director will help you develop a five-year career plan, create your resume and cover letter, help you practice with mock interviews, and facilitate job interviews.

Great Connections

When you attend healthcare training classes at our Irwin or Mt. Braddock campus locations, you have the opportunity to build lasting connections with a variety of people, including the staff, your instructors, and your classmates. With our family atmosphere, you will feel right at home here in your classes.

Creating these meaningful connections while in school gives you a more enjoyable experience and helps you build your professional network, which can be valuable for years to come. You also have the opportunity to build connections with potential employers as you complete your externship experience.

At United, we truly care about you, your education, and your future success. We are dedicated to helping you reach your career goals with our WE CARE approach to education. Whatever you need to succeed, we are here to help you every step of the way.

Get Started Today

Are you looking for a school that offers career-focused degree programs and personalized support throughout your educational experience? Then you’ve come to the right place at United. Explore our Medical Assisting, Medical Billing and Coding, and Practical Nursing programs today. Request information now to get started!

Dominique Thomas – Graduate Highlight

United Career Institute Mt. Braddock is excited to introduce you to Dominque Thomas, a graduate of our Medical Assisting program and our Practical Nursing program. When Dominique attended United for the Medical Assisting program, she loved it so much that she knew she had to come back to continue her education in nursing. It is common for United students to start their journey into the medical field with our Medical Assisting program and then continue into nursing. United has a pathway program to make it as easy on the student as possible!

Before attending United, Dominque was working at a gas company. She was already considering going back to school when she received a message from a United staff member about coming back to school. Dominique took it as a sign that this was the right move for her. “I’m 100% glad that I did it,” Dominque said.

Dominique chose to continue her education in nursing because her medical assisting program showed her how much she loved the medical field. “When I completed the Medical Assisting program and got a job, I realized that I wanted to be a nurse. And this program was the best fit for me,” she said.

The familial atmosphere was Dominique’s favorite part about attending United Career Institute. “I basically had a second family away from home. There was always help when I needed it,” she said. Dominique’s favorite class was Med Surg. “I loved learning about diseases/disorders,” she said.

Dominique is currently working as a practical nurse at a psychiatric hospital, but she has hopes to continue her education even more! “I would like to become an RN and work where I am currently working,” she said.

Dominique says she would absolutely recommend United to a friend! “It’s a great school. There is always help if you need it, and I was able to feel confident in my position when I got my first job.”

If you are interested in becoming a nurse, or if your story sounds similar to Dominque’s, request information here!

Shaquna West – Student Highlight

The pandemic has forced changes in many people’s lives, and United Career Institute Medical Assisting student Shaquna West is, unfortunately, no different. “Before COVID hit, I was working as a kitchen manager and working full-time.” However, like so many other food industry workers, Shaq (as she likes to be referred to) found herself back at home being a full-time mother of 6. “I love being with my family, but I also had a desire to take my education and career to the next level. I started originally with Penn Foster but wasn’t getting the help when I needed it. I felt like I was on my own, so I hopped online and searched for medical assisting school, and United Career Institute was the first to pop up,” she said.

After talking to a United admissions advisor and scheduling a tour, Shaq decided to begin her classes. Her love for helping people and her dream of ultimately becoming a nurse has driven her in her studies. “I love the smaller classes at UCI, because it allows the instructors to focus on the students. If you need help, they go the extra mile to get you the information you need.” Shaq listed Arianna as one of her favorite teachers because she pushes her to do better in everything, giving her the motivation she needs. She also enjoys Kelly Clark’s classes because she breaks everything down into terms that are easy for her and the other students to understand.

Shaq looks to the future often, and when she graduates, she envisions her dream career as one where she works in MaGee’s Women’s Hospital or Children’s Hospital. Five years from now, she can see herself continuing her education until she becomes a registered nurse.

In conclusion, Shaq felt obligated to express her feelings about referring others to the United Irwin Campus. “It’s a great school, and they truly put the students first. Everyone is so helpful and willing to get you any information you need!”  With Shaquna’s dedication and work ethic, we certainly see her being successful during her program here!

To learn more about United’s Medical Assisting program, request information here!

What’s the Difference Between a CNA and MA?

Many people want to start a career in the healthcare field, and for a good reason. The healthcare industry continues to grow rapidly, and the variety of jobs available is expanding as well. Working in healthcare also gives you the chance to help people and make a difference in their lives when they need it most.

There are so many opportunities to begin a healthcare career that it can be confusing to try and figure it out on your own. With this in mind, we’re going to help by explaining the difference between a certified nursing assistant and a medical assistant.

Career Outlook


The career outlook for medical assistants is promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth rate for medical assistants in the United States from 2019-2029 is 19%, well above the 4% average growth rate for all occupations. This means that there will be even more medical assistants needed in the future, and employers will need qualified people to fill these positions.

For certified nursing assistants in the United States, the BLS estimates that the growth rate will be 8% between 2019 and 2029. This is still more than the average rate of 4% but not anywhere near as high as the growth rate for medical assistants.

Skills Required

Medical assistants perform various duties while on the job, including both clinical and administrative tasks that focus on assessing patients and helping doctors with patient care and treatment. Skills a medical assistant needs to learn include taking vital signs, helping with examinations, giving injections, preparing lab tests, and handling patient information.

At United, medical assisting students have the opportunity to practice their hands-on skills in a real healthcare setting as part of an externship. This real-world experience sets students up for success as they begin applying for jobs and start their careers.

Certified nursing assistants focus more on direct patient care and help with daily living activities. Performing baths and cleaning patients, helping patients get dressed and use the bathroom, moving patients between beds and wheelchairs, feeding patients, and changing linens are all common necessary skills of certified nursing assistants.

Training Needed

To start a career in medical assisting, you will need specialized training that prepares you for this specific job. Most medical assisting degree programs can be completed in under two years and include classroom instruction and hands-on skills. It’s also a good idea to choose a medical assistant program that includes preparation for professional certifications, as many employers prefer candidates who have these credentials.

For example, in our Medical Assisting program here at United, students learn valuable knowledge and practice their hands-on skills in their medical assisting classes, labs, and externship. Students also prepare for healthcare certifications specific to being a medical assistant, including the National Certified Clinical Medical Assistant*, Certified EKG Technician**, and Certified Phlebotomy Technician** certifications.

To become a certified nursing assistant, specialized training is required for this career path, and it is usually completed in under six months. The training must be state-approved and typically teaches direct patient care, patient safety, and documentation. CNAs must also pass a competency exam and complete a number of hours of hands-on clinical training, which varies by state.

Work Environment

According to BLS data, medical assistants are most likely to work in physician’s offices, with 57% employed there in 2019. Another 15% is working in hospitals, and the rest in outpatient care centers and at chiropractors. Most medical assistants are full-time employees with 40-hour workweeks. Medical assisting professionals who work in medical facilities that are always open, like hospitals, may work evenings, weekends, and holidays.

According to the BLS, certified nursing assistants are more likely to work in nursing care facilities, with 37% working there, and hospitals, with 27% working there. The remainder of nursing assistants work in retirement and assisted living facilities, home healthcare services, and government. The job duties are more physically demanding and strenuous, as CNAs are on their feet a lot of the time and expected to lift over 50 pounds. Most certified nursing assistants work full time, but some work part-time. They may work longer shifts and more on nights, weekends, and holidays.

Get Started

Now you know the difference between medical assistants and certified nursing assistants! If you’ve decided to go with medical assisting for your career, we may have the perfect Medical Assisting program for you. With hands-on training, academic support, and career services, we can help you reach your career goals. Request information today to get started!

 

*Certification is contingent upon passing the corresponding industry certification exam. Required/included in tuition/fees.

*Certification is contingent upon passing the corresponding industry certification exam. Optional at own expense.

Amy Murray – Student Highlight

United Career Institute Mt. Braddock is proud to introduce you to our March Student of the Month, Amy Murray. Amy is one of our practical nursing students and has a unique story behind how she ended up at United….She was a student 17 years ago when we were still named West Virginia Career Institute! At the time, she was a medical assisting student, and her experience in that program is what encouraged her to come back to United when she was ready to continue her education. “I chose United because I had an amazing experience the first time around!!! The PN program was exactly what I was looking for and located fairly close to me. United also worked with my schedule with my children. I have school when they have school, so I’m not missing a significant amount of time with them,” Amy said.

Amy had always had dreams of being a nurse and originally hoped to pursue that dream directly after completing her Medical Assisting degree. “I chose the PN program because it has always been a dream of mine to become a nurse. After the MA program, I had planned on continuing my journey to become a nurse, but God had bigger plans for me then. That’s when I was blessed with my three beautiful children and was lucky enough to stay home and raise them for several years. Now that they are older, with their support, I was finally able to return to school to finish what I started so many years ago.”

There are so many things about United that Amy loves that she had trouble picking just one! “One of my favorite parts of attending United is knowing that I am learning the skills that will help me reach my lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. Another favorite part would have to be coming to school every day and being in a class full of amazing women who support each other,” she said.

Just like Amy had trouble picking her favorite part of attending United, she also had a hard time picking her favorite instructor. “I love ALL of my teachers! Each and every one of them wants to see us succeed and will encourage and believe in us even when we may not believe in ourselves.” While Amy had trouble picking her favorite part of attending United and her favorite teachers, she had no trouble picking her favorite class! “My favorite class would have to be Lab/Clinical,” she said. “I really enjoy being able to go to the hospital for clinical and use what we have learned in class to help people,” she continued.

Amy’s ideal job after graduation is working in the Emergency Department or Labor and Delivery. In five years, she hopes to be working as a nurse and achieve financial stability.

When asked if she would recommend a friend to United, Amy said, “I would definitely recommend United to a friend, and I would even recommend [it] to a complete stranger. The small class sizes, amazing teachers, location, and hands-on experience United offers prepares you to become the best nurse you can be for future patients and their families.”

If your story sounds similar to Amy’s or if you’re interested in learning more about United’s Practical Nursing program, request information here!

The Benefits of Completing an Externship in Your Degree

Kudos to you for deciding to continue your education and earn a degree! It’s now time to decide what school and program will be the best option for you and your goals.

One of the aspects you may want to think about is whether there’s an externship opportunity that you can do while you earn your degree. An externship allows you to work in real-world environments while still in school and is beneficial for you and your career path. Continue reading to discover the top benefits of completing an externship!

Gain Valuable Experience

One of the main benefits of doing an externship while in school is that you can get hands-on, real-life experience in your selected career path. Learning the critical knowledge required to start your career is great; however, gaining hands-on experience allows you to take it to the next level and gives you an advantage as you apply for jobs. If an employer is considering two candidates, and one has real-world experience, and the other does not, they will most likely select the person who has experience.

Choosing a program that includes an externship and getting real-life experience are great resume builders. Add your externship experience, any tasks you performed, and other skills you developed while completing your externship to your resume.

During the time you are attending school and completing your externship, you can start to consider what types of organizations you want to work for after you graduate. Perhaps you wanted to work in a hospital setting, but then you realized that you would prefer a doctor’s office. Or maybe you thought you wanted to work for a public firm, but now you realize a nonprofit would be better for you. Having on-the-job experience at your externship helps you better understand the work environment, so you can decide which type of company suits your needs.

Develop Your Skills

Practicing the hands-on skills you learned in classroom and lab settings is another great benefit of completing an externship. Employing the knowledge you’ve gained in a real-life work environment can set you up for continued career success. The more work experience you get, the better you will be at your job, as the additional practice helps to upgrade your skills.

During your externship, you will have the opportunity to improve your soft skills, including your communication skills, ability to work with a team, time management skills, and much more. Soft skills are equally as important as the hard skills you acquire for your job. Many employers review candidates for soft skills while completing interviews. Additionally, soft skills can help make you more confident in yourself and your abilities, helping you perform better in your career.

Make Professional Connections

Another benefit of choosing a degree program with an externship is that you can begin creating your professional network while you’re in school. Creating positive relationships with people at your externship and with prospective employers can help you build a network that will be of great value when the time comes to submit job applications.

Once you complete an externship and create a professional network, you will have a head start with local organizations and prospective employers. If you have a great experience with your externship and you would like to work for that company, make them aware and be on the lookout for any job opportunities that come along.

An externship provides you with the opportunity to locate a mentor that could assist you on your career path. Perhaps there is someone that could help by offering you guidance and advice along the way that would be a great mentor. Furthermore, you can receive feedback from professionals in the field to help improve your skillset. You can also ask people you worked with during your externship to provide you with references and recommendations when the time comes for you to submit job applications.

Get Started With United

Are you ready to get on the fast-track to a great healthcare career? At United, we have exciting programs that work for you with externships, caring instructors, career services, and student support. Discover our healthcare degree programs and contact us now to get started today!

Mackenzie Stefanini – Graduate Highlight

United Career Institute Mt. Braddock is thrilled to introduce one of our newest graduates, Mackenzie Stefanini. Mackenzie graduated from United’s Medical Assisting program this month and is already working in the field!

Mackenzie began her journey at United right after high school! She attended a presentation in one of her classes that sparked her interest, and went for an interview afterward and loved it!

Mackenzie has always known she wanted to be in the medical field. However, she knew she needed a school where she could get her foot in the door of the medical field that also provided one on one time with instructors in a small school atmosphere. She said, “I chose the MA program so that I could get my foot in the door and be sure that this was the career I wanted and because I have always wanted to do something in the medical field.” Mackenzie continued,  “I chose United because it was hands-on experience and was a small building with not a lot of people at one time, allowing more one-on-one time with teachers for any questions you might have had.” United’s small class sizes allow plenty of time for one on one help if students need it!

The familial atmosphere was Mackenzie’s favorite part of attending United. “My favorite part was how friendly and family-oriented the building was. They made you feel at home while you were there,” she said. While the family-like atmosphere was Mackenzie’s favorite part of attending United, Kelli, United’s Allied Health Program Coordinator, was her favorite instructor. She said, “I would say my favorite teacher was Kelli. She was the teacher for my clinical classes, and I loved my clinical classes. She always told stories to help remember things.”

One of the most exciting parts of a student’s experience at United Career Institute is the externship they get to participate in their last 12 weeks of the program. This externship allows students to get real-world experience in medical settings. This experience can sometimes lead to job opportunities, and that is the case with Mackenzie! She said, “I am currently working from my extern because they hired me at Conn Family Medicine.”

Mackenzie has big plans for her life in the next five years, both professionally and personally! “I would like to be living in my own house, and starting a family, possibly even go back to United for their LPN program.” Many United students who graduate from the Medical Assisting program go on to the Practical Nursing program because the MA program offers an excellent base to build on.

Mackenzie says she would absolutely refer a friend to United because of the friendly environment and staff! “I would definitely refer somebody to United because of how friendly the environment is. Also, because of how great the teachers are, and they love what they do. I loved the hands-on experience that I also got being at the school.”

If your story sounds similar to Mackenzie’s, request information here!