Table of Contents
Working in the medical field can be one of the most rewarding yet challenging career paths you can take. Despite its challenges, the ability to help people in their time of greatest need and the lucrative professional opportunities makes it an excellent option for many.
In a field as broad as medicine, there are more job opportunities beyond being just a doctor, nurse, or medical researcher. A growing number of people are pursuing a career as medical assistants.
What is a medical assistant?
A medical assistant, also known as a healthcare assistant, supports the work of physicians, nurse practitioners, and other health professionals. They are trained to be able to handle direct patient interaction as well as tackle administrative duties related to medical practice. There are different medical assistants, but all generally go through the same educational path.
Some responsibilities include:
- Taking medical histories
- Explaining and communicating to patients
- Preparing patients for exams
- Collect lab samples
- Instructing patients about medication prescribed by the doctor.
- Preparing and administering medications
- Calling in prescription refills as directed
How do I become a medical assistant?
One of the things that makes becoming a medical assistant so appealing is the lower barrier to entry compared to doctors or nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners require up to 8 years of training and education. For doctors, that number could be over ten years. For a medical assistant, training can take as little as a year.
That is not to say becoming a medical assistant is easy. To become a medical assistant, you will need to accomplish the following.
A high school diploma or GED
A GED is also acceptable. This will be required to gain entry into a required medical assistant program.
Complete an accredited medical assistant program
Generally taking between 1-2 years, you will need to take a medical assistant program accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
It is crucial to select what school you go to properly. Beyond just the cost, curriculum and accreditation, ensure they provide post-graduation support so you can land a job immediately.
Pass the CMA examination
After completing the program, your school will send your transcripts, and you will be able to sit for the CMA exam. Consisting of over 200 questions, you will be tested on various topics, from patient care to administration.
Maintain your AAMA (CMA) credentials
After passing your exam, you will need to maintain your credentials to continue practicing as a medical assistant.
Your credentials last 60 months, during which time you will need to complete different blocks of continuing education before it expires.
Where can I go to school to become a medical assistant?
There are many quality medical assistant schools throughout the United States. Here are some of the best ones.
Pima Medical Institute
Located in Arizona, this school provides a variety of learning options.
Also based in Arizona, this program boasts a great campus and an advanced educational facility where students can gain real-world insight.
Chattahoochee Valley Community College
This Alabama community college has one of the best medical assistant programs in the nation. With options for online and in-person, this school tops many lists.
El Paso Community College
El Paso Community College is another community college that houses a tremendous accredited medical assistant program. Located in Texas, this school is a great option.
Trenholm State Community College
With outstanding faculty and the latest educational materials based on best practices, Trenholm consistently ranks high for medical assistant education.
A school with massive name recognition, Purdue offers many online learning options.
There are many more great options out there. The most important thing to ensure is that they are accredited by CAAHEP or ABHES.
Can I get a degree online?
Getting an online medical assistant degree is possible. For example, the online medical assistant program offered by Purdue University takes place 100% online. While this method provides flexibility, students must have self-discipline and personal initiative to keep up with their workload.
How long is schooling?
Traditionally, medical assistant programs can take between 1-2 years. However, given the increased demand for medical assistants, many colleges now offer accelerated learning options.
Some accredited medical assistant programs allow students to complete training in a compressed timeline in as little as 6-8 weeks. It’s important to note that these programs are time-consuming, demanding, and not meant for everybody.
What jobs can a medical assistant do?
Becoming a medical assistant is a great foundation to explore a wide range of job opportunities.
Exciting medical assistant jobs include:
- Medical office assistant
- EKG technician
- Phlebotomy technician
- Health unit clerk
- Medical claims examiner
- Surgical technologist
- Health inspector
- Nurse’s assistant
- Home health care aide
Where do I find medical assistant jobs?
Many reputable medical assistant schools provide post-graduation professional placement for their students. In fact, with increased demand, many graduates could leave with a job already in hand.
Many online medical staffing websites allow you to post your profile so that medical facilities can find you. Some options would be Atlas Medstaff, Axis Medical Staffing, and Emerald Health Services. Even job websites like ZipRecruiter can yield positive results.
What is the average salary of a medical assistant?
Medical assistants’ compensation can vary greatly depending on many factors, including geographical location, type of employer, and area of specialization.
With that in mind, the national average salary for a medical assistant is between $31,000-$40,000.
As you can see, while becoming a medical assistant may be challenging, it provides a lower barrier to entry than some other medical professions. Getting the training done in less than two years with the option to do it online is a massive benefit many students take advantage of to gain their education.