Do you want a career in the medical field and looking forward to working with doctors, nurses, and patients to provide quality care for the patient? Medical assistants are the first professionals to meet in the offices of doctors, hospitals, and emergency centres that perform a wide range of clinical and administrative tasks.
The medical assistants are in high demand in 2020 across the country, and this career offers a stable salary, reliable working hours, significant benefits for employees, and job security. Not everyone has the skills to work in the medical field; however, if you are dedicated and service-oriented, becoming a certified medical assistant may be the perfect job for you.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – BLS, there will be a 23% increase in the demand for the job in the next eight years. Knowing how to become a medical assistant is the first step towards this successful career.
In this guide, we will be focusing on what you can expect as an aspiring medical assistant requirement, various programs available, certifications and licenses, jobs after graduation, and more.
Steps to Become a Medical Assistant
Choose the right program
The way to choose the right program is to find an accredited program by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs – CAEEP or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools – ABHES. Accreditation means that an independent body has evaluated a program or school, and they measure up to the educational standards expected of a good program in the country.
Accreditation is important not only because it is preferred by many employers, but because it may be required before you can be certified. The outcome of a program is also dependent on your program’s choice, whether its diploma, associate degree, or certificate. It might be best for Medical assistants who may wish to move to other areas to choose the associate degree, which is the basis for further training.
Remember, however, that associate degree will require about two years before completion. Students who want to enter the labour market quickly can choose a diploma or certificate, which can take a little less (a year or less). The courses offered in a program are also important.
While many Medical assistants perform a wide range of functions in the front office and in dealing with patients, some might decide to specialize in one or the other. Those wishing to work in administration should take courses such as billing, customer service, and insurance-focused on the office. Those wishing to work with patients should focus on programs that prepare students. Go further in-patient care by taking courses in phlebotomy, medical terminology, and so on.
Tuition Payment For Medical Assistant
All forms of payment for the school must be initiated by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – FAFSA. This will assist in finding out how much federal assistance a student may qualify for. Once you have done this, look for other sources of payment for education, such as scholarships (some of which are specific to the health professions), work-study, and grants.
While many students may find their education affordable, some may find it difficult to become a Medical assistant. In that case, it is worth saving money by anticipating costs, getting a part-time job while studying, or perhaps looking for a school that offers the best deal on tuition. Those already working in a doctor’s office should assess the possible opportunities for tuition reimbursement.
Complete an Internship as Medical Assistant
In addition to learning in the classroom, schools usually require medical assistants’ school’s laboratory work (internship) to be carried out by their students. The internship offers the student a way of gaining clinical experience before entering the professional world. It enables you to test what you have learned in the classroom.
While doing the internship, you will work with professional medical assistants and gain practical experience in a real clinical setting. During that time, you can ask questions, develop skills, and create connections in the field. While learning about difficult patients or challenging tasks in the classroom, it may seem like enough, but it only takes an externship to give you a chance to experience them. In most cases, your school will provide practical experience in a local clinic or healthcare facility.
Obtain a Medical Assistant Diploma or Certificate.
Medical assistants are expected to be experienced in a wide range of issues, from anatomy and phlebotomy to medical billing and customer service. All the skills and knowledge are important; therefore, it is essential to attend all classes and pay full attention right from the first day.
Becoming successful in a medical assistance program will require that you study hard. Do all the homework on time, take your time to prepare for tests, ask professors for additional explanations when needed, create study groups with colleagues, and do your best to ensure you get good grades.
Students must also seek for the best clinical opportunities. Most medical assistant programs require some practical training; When it’s time to decide on an externship or clinical program, search for one that is very challenging and get good grades from other students. This helps to ensure an excellent education both inside and outside the classroom.
Get the Medical Assisting Certification.
Although certification is not required in most states, it is required by many employers – and even if it is not, certification creates a certain desire and commitment to the medical assisting world that allows a candidate to stand out among job seekers. The certificate proves that a medical assistant has been tested and confirmed to have certain knowledge and skills that may be useful to any employer.
There are several potential medical certifications, but five are listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
- Certified Medical Assistant – CMA: Issued by the American Association of Medical Assistants
- Registered Medical Assistant – RMA: Issued by the American Medical Technologists
- National Certified Medical Assistant – NCMA: Issued by the National Center for Competency Testing
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant – CCMA: Issued by the National Health career Association
- Certified Medical Administrative Assistant – CMAA: Issued by the National Health career Association
Obtaining the required certification generally leads to the exam and completion of an accredited program. The exam has 200 multiple-choice questions, divided into four 40-minute segments. AAMA provides a content outline of the exam and practical exams and other resources for learning for certification.
Besides the CMA certification offered by the AAMA, the American Medical Certification Association conducts certification exams in the medical assisting field, including the Clinical Medical Assistant Certification, and the Clinical Medical Administrative Assistant Certification.
Consider going further in the Healthcare Industry
After completing the training and receiving the certificate, it is time to practice all of this knowledge. Those who get a basic job can settle down and look to the future. Deciding to take the profession further by returning to school can be an attractive option for those who wish to expand their medical assisting careers.
Those who have achieved the associate diploma may want to use it as a cornerstone to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing, administration, and more. Anyone willing to work as a medical assistant can expand their horizons with various certifications. Certification in certain office programs, phlebotomy, medication, and other work-related issues to a medical assistant can guarantee a competitive pay rate and possibly better job security.
What does a Medical Assistant do?
Medical assistants are specialized health care providers who work closely with patients, nurses, and doctors and perform various clinical and administrative tasks related to administrating a medical office.
A medical assistant’s clinical tasks include taking and recording the vital signs in patients, collecting the patient’s medical history, assisting doctors in examining patients, administering injections or medications as directed by a physician, sterilizing medical supplies, and medical waste disposal.
Besides the clinical work, medical assistants perform many administrative duties, such as updating and maintaining patient records, assisting with medical billing, managing medical records, filling out insurance applications, and scheduling patient appointments.
Through a range of tasks, medical assistants have the opportunity to participate in many of the daily operations in a medical office, hospital department, or private practice.
What are the Certification and Licensing requirements For Medical Assistants?
Presently, five medical assistant certifications were accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and each with little difference in the requirements. The following certificates are required for the medical assistants; Certified Medical Assistant – CMA, form AAMA – American Association of Medical Assistants.
The Certified Medical Administrative Assistant – CMAA or Certified Clinical Medical Assistant – CCMA is two licenses offered by the National Health Career Association, depending on your specialization. The AMT – American Medical Technologists, offer Registered Medical Assistant – RMA. Lastly, the National Certified Medical Assistant – NCMA is offered by the National Center for Competency Testing.
How to become a Certified Medical assistant
Obtain a High School Diploma or GED
Reasonably the most important step in this process is to finish high school or bag a GED. At this stage, students should major in science and math courses that will prepare them to become a CMA, such as algebra, biology, chemistry, statistics, physics, and related electives. It would be best to volunteer at a local clinic or doctor’s office because this experience increases a student’s demand for after-school programs and exposes the person to the great pressure of working in a health setting.
Complete a Required Medical Assistant Program (1 – 2 years)
Although there are no national training requirements for medical assistants, the American Association of Paramedics (AAMA) requires these healthcare professionals to complete an approved postsecondary training program before applying for certification.
AAMA specifies that “only graduates of health programs accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Office of Accreditation of Schools for Health Education (ABHES) are eligible to take the certification examination – CMA (AAMA). “Each organization provides a list of nationally approved programs.
The only people eligible to take exams for CMA are those who graduate from a medical assisting program that has been accredited by the CAAHEP – Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the ABHES – the Accreditation Bureau of Health Education Schools. All of these organizations provide a list of nationally approved programs.
AAMA states that approved programs typically provide training in a variety of clinical and administrative areas such as human anatomy; laboratory methods; pharmacology; Medical terminology; First Aid; how to administer medicine; insurance coding and processing; records and accounting; Computer skills; and medical law and ethics, to name but a few. In addition, students in these programs often do internships, supervised unpaid internships in medical institutions.
Pass the CMA Examination (less than one year)
Finally, upon completion of an accredited medical assistant program, the person must pass the CMA certification test (AAMA) or its equivalent through one of the organizations mentioned above. CMA applicants must provide a completed application and payment ($ 125). In addition, CAAHEP or ABHES accredited programs typically send official transcripts to AAMA to verify an application for a certified student exam. AAMA provides a content outline for the test, which includes the following categories:
- Data collection
- Death & dying stages
- Human behavior
- Human growth & development
- Medical law & regulations
- Nonverbal communication
- Professionalism & interpersonal skills
- Therapeutic and adaptive responses to diverse populations
The exam consists of 200 questions with multiple-choice, and the candidates have three attempts to pass. CMA candidates receive an official copy of the grades approximately eight weeks after the exam, and an official CMA certificate (AAMA) arrives ten weeks later, officially confirming their CMA status.
Medical Assistant Without Certification
It is not a requirement of the state or federal government to work as a medical assistant with AAMA certification. But, a lot of employers require that their medical assistant has to be certified. Medical liability is an ongoing health care concern.
Doctors want to make sure that the nurses they employ are competent and have the necessary skills to treat patients safely. Some insurance companies that insure doctors and medical centers may also require nurses to be certified to maintain medical liability risks.
You can work as a medical assistant without being certified. If you have recently completed your training, you may be employed as an uncertified medical assistant; however, your employer may ask you to receive your certificate within a certain employment period.
As a medical assistant, if you have never received formal training, you can find a job without a certificate based on years of professional experience.
Types of Medical assistant
Clinical Medical Assistant
The Clinical medical assistant is primarily involved in patient care, examinations, and other clinical tasks. This might include preparing patients for medical examinations, documenting vital items and medical history, instructing patients on home care, performing detailed procedures, and assisting a doctor during examinations.
While a clinical medical assistant has extensive responsibilities, the focus will be on the clinical aspects of the practice.
Administrative Medical Assistant
Administrative medical assistants primarily perform administrative tasks, such as records management, making appointments, answering calls, maintaining the receptions, and doing general accounting and billing.
Administrative medical assistants play a key role in medical offices. They keep the business aspect of the practice running smoothly to minimize potential disruption to the physician’s primary patient care function.
To function in this position effectively, candidates must have excellent written and oral communication skills, proper telephone etiquette, better intermediate computer skills, and basic knowledge of medical terminology.
Specialized Medical Assistant
There are many specialized medical assistant certifications available through the Association of Medical Technologists. To receive certification, assistants must complete an accredited training program and pass the certification examination. In many cases, certified medical assistants earn higher wages and have better job opportunities than those without certification.
Many specialized medical assistant certificates can be obtained through the Association of Medical Technologists. To be certified, assistants must graduate from an accredited training program and pass the certification exam. In most cases, certified medical assistants receive higher salaries and better employment opportunities than those without certification.
Medical Assistant Requirements by States
How to become a certified medical assistant in California?
A medical assistant in California has a skill set that makes them specialists in administrative and clinical tasks and, on any given day, can provide hospital admissions and laboratory services, answer calls, greet clients or assist a doctor during a check-up.
Compliment of their education and training, these health professionals are prepared for everything that happens daily. It is good news that the California Employment Development Department recorded a 5.5% increase in demand for medical assistants between 2019 and 2021, building the workforce to more than 100,000 MA professionals.
Do you want to join these professionals and become part of the health care industry in California? Below are the appropriate steps to take;
- Complete a medical board of California Recognized Training
- Obtain government and/or national certification
- Find a healthcare job with one of the best employers in California
How to become a medical assistant in Texas?
Based on a report by the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of medical assistants will increase by 4.3% in a few years between 2019 and 2021. Perhaps even more notable is the average number of vacancies per year for medical assistants – an average of 8,150 expected each year due to a combination of retirement, normal turnover, and job growth.
These statistics ensure that you have a glimpse of exciting job opportunities awaiting you once you are one of the most qualified medical assistants in the state. First, you will need the training and qualifications for the state’s best health employers want:
- Attain education and certification you need to become a qualified job seeker
- Find a healthcare job you like
- Maintain your qualifications as a medical assistant
How to become a medical assistant in Florida?
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity expects the number of medical assistants to increase by 6.4% in just two years from 2019 to 2021.
About 8,490 jobs are created in this area each year due to retirement, job fluctuations, and job creation, which is great for new and practicing medical assistants looking for their next job opportunity. Meaning, if you have the qualifications, there is work in Florida. To become a qualified medical assistant in Florida, follow these steps:
- Complete medical assistant training program in Florida
- Get national certification
- Find a job you like
How to become a medical assistant in Oregon
The number of medical assistants is projected to grow by 5.3% between 2019 and 2021 by the Oregon Department of Employment, one of the fastest projected growth rates for Medical assistants in the country in this period.
If you want to take advantage of this excellent job market and enter among Oregon trained medical assistant, you need to make sure that you are prepared with the right mix of education and training. Here’s how to do it:
- Completion of the accredited Medical Assistant program
- Get national certification
- Find a job you like and upgrade your credentials
Average Salary of Medical assistants
The average annual salary for medical assistants is $34,800. The lowest 10% earned less than $25,820, while the top 10% earned more than $48,720.
The average annual salary for medical assistants in the industries in which they work best is listed below:
- Outpatient care centers – $36,810
- Hospitals; state, local, and private – $36,080
- Offices of physicians – $34,870
- Offices of chiropractors – $30,870
Career Opportunities for Medical Assistants
- Dental assistants
Medical Assistant Job Growth
The medical assistant employment is projected to grow by 19% over the next decade, much faster than the average for all professions. The growth of the elderly population will continue to increase the demand for preventive health services, usually provided by doctors.
As a result, doctors will recruit more medical assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical tasks, allowing doctors to attend more patients.
There will be an increasing demand for different practices, clinics, and other health facilities for medical assistants to perform administrative and clinical tasks. Medical assistants work primarily in primary care, a growing health sector.
Hot Jobs in Medical Assisting
Ophthalmic medical assistants work directly with patients, perform eye exams, helps with contact lens use and care, collect medical history, and helps with prescriptions and minor surgeries.
Podiatric medical assistants cast the feet, take x-rays, and assist with foot surgery. In this role, assistants also performed preliminary exams and regular use of podiatric instruments.
Becoming a certified medical assistant has rewards as it makes you stand out and be open to better job opportunities. You can follow the guide above to make your dream of becoming a certified medical assistant a reality.
How long does it take to become a medical assistant?
To become a medical assistant, you usually need to complete training and pass a certification exam. This process can last between 9 months to 3 years.
How much does it cost to become a medical assistant?
The tuition cost can be between $5,000 to $15,000, depending on your chosen school.
How many medical assistants are there in the US?
The number of medical assistants in the United States is approximately 483600, and it is also expected to grow in a few years.
What state pays the most for a medical assistant?
Alaska pays the medical assistants the most with the highest mean salary of $45,490
Do you need a degree to be a medical assistant?
According to the BLS – Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are no formal requirements for medical assistants in most states. However, you will need an associate degree if you want to apply for allied health degree completion programs.
Is a medical assistant a good career?
It is a good career, and it has a great outlook for a few years to come.
Who makes more money as a CNA or Medical Assistant?