Medical assistant is one of the fastest growing careers in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 200,000 new jobs will open up in the field by the year 2016. Over 200,000 additional medical assistant positions are expected to open up in the next twenty years.
Along with the increase in the number of medical assistant jobs, the average salary is also expected to go up. The current average wage, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $14 per hour. This wage varies greatly depending on the location of the job and the experience and education level of the medical assistant.
One of the easiest ways to become a medical assistant is to attend a medical assistant school and take medical assistant programs. Most of these programs last between one and two years. Earning a medical assistant certificate is an additional way to stick out from the competition, earn more, and get the best job possible.
Below is a little more information on how to become a medical assistant. The education, on-the-job training, licensing, certifications, and registrations needed are all covered. We also take a look at important skills, the typical workday, and the average salary range for a medical assistant.
Education For Medical Assistants
The best way to become a medical assistant is to attend a medical assistant school. There are two main educational programs offered to those attending these schools: a one-year certificate and a two-year associate’s degree.
There are hundreds of schools across the United States that offer medical assistant programs. Most of these programs are offered at community colleges, universities, and technical schools.
Taking the program for a one-year medical assistant certificate generally lasts around 9 to 12 months. The program for a medical assistant associate’s degree takes between 18 and 24 months. Both programs generally include a combination of classroom and laboratory training. Many of the two-year medical assistant programs also include an internship requirement.
Those interested in attending medical assistant school can also choose to enroll in an online program. These are programs that cover the same things as a standard program, except that all classwork and coursework is completed online. A hybrid combination of online work and classroom instruction can also be found in some areas.
High school students interested in becoming a medical assistant can get a jumpstart on their education by taking courses in anatomy, biology, and chemistry while still in high school.
On-The-Job Training For Medical Assistants
Those that do not attend a medical assistant school or program can learn the required skills through on-the-job training. If you take this route, physicians and other medical assistants will show you the ropes of the career. They’ll teach you medical terminology, how to do daily tasks, and how to interact with patients among much else. Though on-the-job training is an effective option for aspiring medical assistants, more medical practices prefer hiring new assistants with a postsecondary medical assistant education. This is largely due to the increasing number of people interested in becoming medical assistants.
A medical assistant can also use a combination of education and on-the-job training to learn the ropes.
Licensing, Certifications, And Registrations For Medical Assistants
A medical assistant does not need to be licensed, certified, or registered to find a job. However, more employers than ever before prefer to hire those that have medical assistant certifications and registrations.
There are numerous organizations that offer certifications for medical assistants. Each organization has its own set of requirements and prerequisites. Common requirements include a certain amount of work experience, passing an exam, or graduating from an accredited medical assistant program. Almost every organization requires applicants to be at least 18 years old before applying.
The most popular and well-respected medical assistant certification organization is The National Commission for Certifying Agencies. The organization is part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. They currently accredit five certifications for medical assistants. These include:
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
- Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Health Career Association
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Health Career Association
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from the American Medical Technologists
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
Important Skills For Medical Assistants
A successful medical assistant needs to have a number of different skills. A few of the most important of these include:
- Analytical Skills – Medical assistants must be able to understand and interpret medical charts and physician diagnoses.
- Attention to Detail – Medical assistants need to be able to take precise measurements of vital signs as well as accurately record patient medical histories and information.
- Technical Skills – Medical assistants must be able to properly handle basic medical instruments to take patient vital signs including blood pressure and heart rate.
- Interpersonal Skill – Medical assistants need to have great interpersonal skills to effectively and professionally communicate with other medical personnel, including physicians, and patients.
Typical Workday For Medical Assistants
Part of becoming a medical assistant is understanding the typical workday that comes along with the career.
Though the specifics of the average workday for a medical assistant differ for each individual employer, most medical assistants can expect to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. This equates to a 40-hour workweek. Most small medical offices are open from Monday to Friday so medical assistants will work within these hours. However, large practices and large facilities are often staffed 24/7, through the night. New medical assistants are usually required to work during these nighttime hours while those with more experience work during the day.
The average medical assistant can expect to handle a variety of clinical and administrative tasks during the course of a day. These include things such as checking patients in, taking vital signs, administrating physician-approved medications, processing billing and insurance coding, and taking patient medical histories. Medical assistants often help man the phones and schedule appointments as well.
There are a lot of things to like about working as a medical assistant. Many people in the field enjoy the versatility of the job, as medical assistants are trained in both clinical and administrative tasks. The fact that medical assistants are not trained in a specific medical specialty means they have numerous options for employment and are not limited to a specific type of medical office.
Average Salary Range For Medical Assistants
As mentioned above, the average salary for a medical assistant differs greatly depending on their location and level of experience. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), the average salary range is between $22,000 and $30,000 a year. However, the more education and work experience one has, the higher their pay usually is. Medical assistants that are certified or registered also make more on average.
It is important to note that medical assistants receive a range of benefits in addition to their salaries. These often include health insurance and paid time off.
How To Find The Right Medical Assistant Program For You
There are a lot of different programs available for medical assistants out there. These are offered by a vast array of different schools and institutions. So how do you find the best medical assistant school for you?
The first thing to keep in mind is that completing any medical assistant program is almost always better than entering the workforce without a postsecondary education. However, there are certain schools and programs that better suit the needs of certain individuals than others do.
One of the most important things you can do to find a great program is to make a list of the things that matter to you most in your education. You need to decide between a one-year certificate and a two-year associate’s degree program. You need to decide if you want to specialize in a sub-field of medical assisting such as optometry. Other factors to take into consideration include the location of the school, cost of tuition, average class size, and reputation of professors.
Become A Medical Assistant
There are a number of different ways to become a medical assistant. The route that you should take depends on your individual needs and preferences.
However, the most popular route is currently to attend a medical assistant school. Because the job is more popular than ever before (and is set to grow even more so in the future), employers are forced to raise their standards during the hiring process. While you can still find a medical practice willing to train you with on-the-job training, most prefer to hire new medical assistants with education in the field. A medical assistant certification will raise your chances of finding a good job even more.
Becoming a medical assistant isn’t the most difficult thing in the world to do. But it does take hard work and a willingness to learn about the field. Learn more about becoming a medical assistant and about the best medical assistant schools and programs on our website.