How to Become a Medical Assistant

Who Is a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant is a health expert trained to provide professional assistance to doctors and nurses while attending to patients.

A certified medical assistant (CMA) has an American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) certification. Ordinarily, a CMA will have completed an accredited medical assistant program before getting their certification.

Medical assistants can work in various medical fields assisting nurses and doctors, as well as in health facilities, such as healthcare clinics, doctor’s offices, rehabilitation centers and hospitals.

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Steps to Become a Medical Assistant.

Many employers prefer their medical assistants to have formal training. A medical assistant program can take anywhere from six weeks to two years.

Step 1: Obtaining a GED

An essential step in this process is obtaining a high school diploma.

Courses to Consider
Students at this stage should focus on subjects like biology, chemistry, statistics and physics to help them prepare to become medical assistants.

Volunteer Work
It may also be prudent to volunteer at a local doctor’s office at this stage to gain experience and analyze whether a career in CMA is appropriate.

Step 2: Research and Apply for Accredited Medical Assistant Programs

Attending an accredited medical assistant program is a requirement for becoming a CMA.

The next step to becoming a CMA is to conduct extensive research on available programs that fit the criteria set by the AAMA. After researching and picking a program, the next step is to apply for the program.  See list of programs in your area above.

Step 3: Completing a Medical Assistant Program

While it is not a requirement that a medical assistant seeks post-graduate education, the AAMA requires that medical assistants complete an approved postsecondary program if they ever want to become certified medical assistants. Medical assistants must have a basic understanding of the medical field to perform their duties effectively. Here, you can also specialize in fields such as radiology.

The AAMA states that the approved programs have to offer instruction in medical areas, such as human anatomy, administering medication, processing insurance, record-keeping, medical jargon and appropriate lab techniques.

Step 4: Get Certified by Taking the CMA Certification Test

After completing an accredited medical assistant program, the next step is to take the CMA certification test.

However, if you are already employed as a medical assistant and want to become a CMA, you need to qualify to take the test. The AAMA requires completing an accredited medical assistant program to qualify to take the CMA certification test. No matter how a medical assistant career starts, an accredited medical program must be completed to qualify for the CMA certification test.

Application Cost
Aspiring CMAs must submit an application form and a fee of $125. The AAMA provides a general outline of the exam content, including stages of death, nonverbal communication, data collection, communication skills, medical regulations, human development and human behavior.

After getting approval to take the CMA test, students can prepare by studying and reviewing the information. Passing the test grants you CMA status, and you can enter the workforce or continue studying other medical assistant fields.

More Certifications
Apart from the CMA certification from AAMA, there are other potential medical assistant certifications. These include:

Step 5: Apply for CMA Positions

Once you get CMA certification, you are qualified to apply for any open medical assistant positions.

Step 6: Consider Future Plans

If you want to advance your career, you can go back to school. Anyone with an associate’s degree can leverage that to become a nurse or an administrator.

If you are satisfied with just being a medical assistant, you can take some of the certifications to advance your career. Becoming certified in various subjects can help ensure better pay and job security.

How Much Does It Cost?

When attending a medical assistant program, the cost will depend on the type of institution attended and how long.

Like tuition fees, admission fees will vary between a certificate program and an associate’s degree. For a certificate program, the tuition fee can range from $2,000 to $20,000, with an average cost of about $14,000. The tuition fee for an associate’s degree can range from about $5,000 to $40,000.

Job Duties

The primary duty of a medical assistant is to assist doctors and nurses. However, they perform a wide range of duties to assist physicians and nurses, including:

  • Assisting doctors and nurses when performing routine physicals
  • Recording the medical history of patients
  • Assisting in administration duties like setting up appointments, filing insurance claims and organizing patient records
  • Assisting with office procedures such as assisting doctors in providing treatment and taking x-rays
  • Taking and analyzing blood and tissue samples
  • Assisting doctors in monitoring a patient’s progress
  • Explaining the treatment procedure to the patients.
  • Preparing patients for an examination
  • Preparing and administering medication as directed by the doctor
  • Admitting patients into the hospital
  • Handling correspondence and bookkeeping

Depending on the type of hospital, medical assistants may have additional duties in their schedule.

What Is the Average Salary?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) research in 2020, medical assistants earn an average yearly salary of approximately $37,000.

Average estimates for pay can vary greatly depending on experience level, location and type of medical facility. Fresh graduates will need to earn experience to grow past entry-level wages and approach the countrywide average.

Personality Traits

  1. A medical assistant must be a good communicator. In the medical assistant field, you must be able to communicate with patients effectively. This could mean putting complex medical jargon into simpler terms or learning to ask the right questions.As important as being a good talker is, communication also involves being a good listener. In addition to listening to the patient’s needs, you will also need to listen closely to the instructions given by the doctors and nurses.
  2. A medical assistant should be compassionate. For patients to feel comfortable and relaxed, they need to feel heard.A medical assistant must be compassionate. Showing the patient that you care about them will help to ensure they have a positive experience.
  3. A medical assistant should be thorough. In a single day, medical assistants work with a lot of people.Being thorough is a useful trait. To ensure the safety of each patient, medical assistants need to be thorough, especially when performing exams and recording patient information.
  4. A medical assistant should be flexible. Medical assistants usually find themselves alternating between clinical and administrative duties. No two days are ever alike for a medical assistant.For that reason, they must be able to adapt to new conditions as they arise.

Skills Required

  1. Communication skills: Medical assistants must be able to listen to a patient to understand and accurately record their issues. They must also be able to articulate instructions to patients clearly and effectively relay information, both verbally and in written form, to other professionals on a patient’s medical team.
  2. Organizational Skills: Medical assistants usually have to perform clerical duties on top of their medical duties. They may be required to answer the phone, maintain patient files and schedule appointments. Being organized is a skill that will pay off.
  3. Medical Expertise: Medical assistants should have a basic knowledge of common medical terminology, human anatomy and simple procedures like dressing wounds and drawing blood. Working knowledge of CPR and first aid is also important.
  4. Knowledge of Safety and Sanitation Measures: Medical assistants should be aware of patient safety and their safety. They should also be alert when it comes to sanitation because poor sanitation can lead to the patients getting sicker.
  5. Computer Skills: Medical assistants should be comfortable using computers because many administrative tasks will require computer knowledge. Computer proficiency is an important skill, especially with many health facilities digitizing their patient records.
  6. Customer Service Skills: Patients are customers who choose their health provider based on the quality of care and customer service provided. It is important to treat patients with care and respect.
  7. Problem-solving Skills: Whatever profession you are in, it is a surety that problems will arise.Sometimes problems can arise unexpectedly, and problem-solving skills can help a medical assistant to take swift action.You can develop such skills from school critical thinking assignments and observing how others solve their issues in similar situations.
  8. Telephone Etiquette: Medical assistants may be required to answer phones at the reception to set up and confirm patient appointments and answer any questions patients may have.If a medical assistant does not have the appropriate telephone etiquette, a patient may get agitated and choose another healthcare facility.

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job availability in the CMA profession is expected to increase by 20% over the next ten years. This means that there are plenty of employment opportunities when you join this profession.

Search Medical Assistant Programs

Get information on Medical Assistant programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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