If you’re interested in becoming part of the medical profession and in a position where you can help others, why not check into medical assisting. A medical assistant and medical records play an important role while performing both clinical and administrative tasks. To learn everything you need to know regarding this rewarding career, read on.
How to Become a Medical Assistant
There are a couple different paths to becoming a medical assistant. You may be hired right out of high school and receive on-the-job training. However, this rarely happens anymore. With so many individuals choosing this career and completing training programs and earning certifications, you almost have to complete a training program just to remain competitive in the work force.
Medical assistant training programs include classroom assignments, lab studies and generally an office internship as well as a clinical internship to receive hands-on training in both capacities. The training programs for medical assistants, which can be found at community colleges or technical schools, generally take from one to two years to complete.
As a student in a medical assistant program, you’ll take courses in medical terminology; anatomy and physiology; communication in healthcare; medical records and correspondence; medical insurance and coding; medical office management; vital signs and measurements; and infection control. When it’s time to complete the supervised internship, you’ll probably spend an equal amount of time in a medical office and in a hospital or clinical setting.
Degrees or Certificates Needed to Become a Medical Assistant
Medical assistants programs are generally certificate programs or associate degree programs. The curriculums for certificate and associate degree programs are similar; however, one type takes a year to complete and the other generally takes two years to complete. With medical assisting associate degree programs, you’ll also complete general education courses.
Once you’ve completed your training program, you may want to obtain certification. Although medical assistants are not legally required to be certified, most employers look more favorably on medical assistants who have certification. Listed below are the certifications a medical assistant can earn and the certifying agency.
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) – American Association of Medical Assistants
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) – National Center for Competency Testing
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) – American Medical Technologists
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) or Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) – National Healthcareer Association
To earn any of these certifications, you may pass a certification exam. To be eligible to take the exams you must meet their requirements, which may be completing an approved training programs or having sufficient work experience. To maintain certification, you must complete a designated number of hours of continuing education.
When choosing a school to complete your medical assisting training, it’s important to choose a school that’s accredited. There are a few different accrediting agencies but the one most common for this type of program is the Commission of Accreditation on Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is generally a requirement for certification. When the certifying agency requires completing training in an approved school, accreditation is usually what is meant by “approved”.
Becoming a Medical Assistant through Online Education
Online education has become a popular and convenient way to earn a degree, and it’s available for aspiring medical assistants. There are several colleges that offer medical assistant programs through distance learning. Some programs may be 100% online while others may be hybrid programs.
Hybrid programs are programs where some classes are completed on the Internet and others are completed in the classroom. It’s important to understand that even in 100% online programs, you’ll be required to complete your internship or externship at an actual hospital or medical setting. As mentioned above, be sure to make sure the school is accredited. This is especially important with online schools.
Job Outlook Very Strong for Medical Assistants
The job outlook for medical assistants looks very promising due to the aging population, the increasing help physicians need with their practice and the addition of electronic health records. The fact that medical assistants can perform both clinical and office duties make them an even greater asset in the medical industry. Medical assistants who have certifications will generally see better employment opportunities.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts the medical assistants will see an employment growth of up to 29% between 2012 and 2022. This growth is much faster than other occupations. Medical assistants are mostly employed in physicians’ offices, but they may also find employment in hospitals, outpatient clinics and other medical facilities.
Typical Salaries of Medical Assistants
Medical assistant salaries can vary but they generally earn in the $30,000s. Salary.com reports that the average annual wage for medical assistants as of July 2014 was $32.478, with the lowest 10% earning $27,416 and the highest 90% earning $37,605. Several factors can affect earnings such as number of certifications, work experience, training and geographic location.
In a May 2013 report by the BLS, medical assistants working in Alaska earned a mean annual wage of $39,610, making them the highest paid state for medical assistants for that year The nation’s lowest wages for medical assistants that year were found in West Virginia, where the mean annual wage was $24,860.
As of 2014, the highest paying city for medical assistants is Vallejo, CA where the average wage for medical assistants is $47,430. This info came from U.S. News & World Report, who also reported that medical assistants working in Fairbanks, Alaska earned an average of more than $42,000.
Careers Similar to Medical Assisting
Here is a list of careers that are similar to medical assisting, along with the type of education they require and the type of wages one might expect.
- EMTS And Paramedics – $31,020 – Postsecondary Non-Degree Education
- Dental Assistant – $34,500 – Postsecondary Non-Degree Education
- Dental Hygienists – $70,210 – Associate Degree
- Licensed Practical Nurse – $41,540 – Postsecondary Non-Degree Education
- Pharmacy Technicians – $29,320 – High School Diploma And Certificate
- Medical Records And Health Information Technicians – $34,160 – Certificate Or Associate Degree
- Physical Therapy Assistant – $39,430 – Associate Degree
- Nursing Assistant – $24,400 – Non-Degree Training
- Surgical Technologist – $41,790 – Associate Degree
- Psychiatric Technician – $27,440 – Postsecondary Certificate
Today there are more medical assistants in the workforce than ever before. This career offers you the opportunity to take part in an important role in the medical industry. U.S. News & World Report ranked medical assisting #24 among the best health care jobs and #45 among the best 100 jobs in 2013.