How to Become a Medical Assistant

How to Become a Medical Assistant

If you feel your true calling is in the medical field, but your circumstances don’t allow you years of studying and incurring the financial burden to get that degree, don’t despair. You should look into the position of a medical assistant. You can start this position within a year. Read on to find out more!

Definition of a Medical Assistant

Medical assistants perform routine administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices and clinics of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors and optometrists running smoothly. Medical assisting is one of the nation’s fastest growing careers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Medical assistants have both administrative and clinical duties. They may answer the telephone, greet patients, fill out medical records and update them as needed, schedule appointments and handle correspondence and billing.

On the clinical side, medical assistants often are the people who take medical histories, prepare patients for examination, assist the doctor during appointments and perform basic laboratory tests, along with other clinical responsibilities.

What a medical assistant does will depend on the office where she or he works, state law and the needs of the assistant’s employer.

Medical Assistant is an entry-level position within the healthcare field. The job entails doing administrative work such as scheduling appointments or supporting medical work such as taking patient’s vital or taking samples. Often it requires a bit of both. 

Benefits of the job are numerous, including, but not limited to:

Quick training process: as we mentioned previously, you can get certified to be a medical assistant within a year.
– Certificate valid everywhere: you can work anywhere within the U.S. without the need to certify in each state separately, unlike other medical professionals.
Numerous work opportunities: as a medical assistant, you are not limited to working just in a hospital. You can also work in doctor’s offices, nursing homes, even as at-home aid.
–  Employment stability: according to BLS1, the need for medical assistants is estimated to increase by 29% by 2026.

Ways to Become A Medical Assistant

Becoming a medical assistant is a streamlined 3-step process that is relatively easy to complete. Your first move towards becoming a medical assistant is to enroll into a training course certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, or CAAHEP, or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, or ABHES. If you have your eyes on a more advanced position later on, you should consider enrolling in two-year associate’s degree programs.

Once your training is done, you should look into getting hands-on experience. You can look into if your local medical facilities have internship programs that would suit your needs. You should do this even if your chosen medical assistant training program already has some on offer. The more practice you put in before official employment, the better.

Finally, remember that valid-everywhere certification we mentioned? That’s the final step. You qualify for official certification once you complete your program or if you can prove you have acquired enough appropriate experience for a medical assistant. There are three certificates you can get: 

– Certified Medical Assistant, or CMA, provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants.
– Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, or CCMA, provided by the National Healthcare Association.
– Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, or CCMA, provided by the National Healthcare Association.

Academic Requirements

Most employers prefer graduates of formal programs in medical assisting. Such programs are offered in vocational-technical high schools, post-secondary vocational schools, community and junior colleges and colleges and universities. Post-secondary programs usually last either one year, resulting in a certificate or diploma, or two years, resulting in an associate degree.


Training Required

Medical assistants who do not have postsecondary education certificates learn their skills through on-the-job training. Physicians or other medical assistants may teach a new assistant medical terminology, the names of the instruments, how to do daily tasks, how to interact with patients, and other tasks that help keep an office running smoothly. Medical assistants also learn how to code both paper and electronic health records (EHRs) and how to record patient information. It can take several months for an assistant to complete training, depending on the facility.


Medical Assistant Salary

According to the BLS2, as of May 2017 medical assistants earned anywhere between $23,830 and $45,900 per year. Your salary also depends on the chosen work environment. For example, in outpatient facilities, medical assistants earn about $33,820 per year; in hospitals, they earn about $33,590; in doctor’s offices, the number is around $32,710 per year.


Medical Assistant Job Opportunities

Around 185,000 new positions are expected to be in circulation by 2016. Some popular positions in this field include Specialized Medical Assistant, EKG Technician, or Podiatric Medical Assistant.

To conclude, the ration between the time needed to learn the trade, the amount you can earn, and the likelihood of being employed are pretty much in your favor.

[1] “Medical Assistant,” US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
[2] “Medical Assistants: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more.”
[3] “Medical Assistant,” ExploreHealthCareers.
[4] “What Medical Assistants Do,” US Bureau of Labor Statistics.