Medical assistants enjoy a high employment growth in the US at 23% - a rate that is a lot faster than average. Demand for them will rise due to the baby boom population ageing and their need for continuous medical attention. In addition to that, physicians will need more help for routine clinical and administrative tasks as the number of healthcare facilities rises.
Job prospects are expected to be good for all medical assistants. However, those who have a certification and are familiar with Electronic Health Records will have better job opportunities.
If you are interested in finding out how you can join this profession, the following guide on how to become a medical assistant will be of great use to you. It provides details on the job description of a medical assistant, along with a discussion on the steps to become a medical assistant.
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Medical assistants perform a multitude of tasks including administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians and other healthcare facilities. Their duties vary according to the specialty and size of practice. Typical duties of medical assistants, as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics are:
Recording patient data
Measuring patient vital signs
Assisting physicians with patient examinations
Administering injections or medications to patients under the supervision or direction of physicians
Scheduling appointments with patients
Preparing samples of blood for lab tests
Entering patient information into the relevant databases
Steps to Become a Medical Assistant in the US
In order to become a medical assistant, you will have to fulfill a series of education, experience and licensing requirements. The following steps provide a clearer picture of the entire process.
Step 1: Complete the Educational Requirements
There are two educational paths to become a medical assistant in the US. A lot of medical assistants get a postsecondary education award, such as a certificate, while others enter the field with a high school diploma and learn on the job. Even though there are no strict educational requirements to become a medical assistant, most employers are likely to hire professionals who have some kind of education in this field.
Medical assistant programs are available at community colleges, technical schools or vocational schools. Most of these programs take about a year to complete and lead to a certificate or a diploma. Some community colleges also offer 2-year long programs that result in an associate’s degree.
Step 2: Complete the Training Requirements
This is especially applicable for students who have only a high school diploma. These individuals learn their duties on the job. While on the job, these students are put under the supervision of experienced physicians or other medical assistants to teach them new medical terminology, instrument names, performance of daily tasks, patient interactions etc. Medical assistants also learn how to code paper and electronic health records (EHRs). This training period can take several months to complete, depending on the healthcare facility in question.
Step 3: Meet Certification and Licensing Requirements
Medical assistants do not need a license or a certification in most states. Quite a lot of employers, however, prefer to hire certified assistants. There are several organizations offering certifications for medical assistants. Most certifying agencies require applicants to pass an exam after taking one of the several routes to become a medical assistant. Applicants are required to be 18 years old before applying for certification.
The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, which is a part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence accredits five certification programs for aspiring medical assistants:
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association
Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association
National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
How Much Does a Medical Assistant Earn in the US?
As per data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical Assistants in the US made an annual median income of $33610 in 2018.
The top paying state for this occupation was Alaska, followed by District of Columbia, Washington, Massachusetts and Minnesota.