How to Become a Medical Assistant
The many benefits of this career include gaining a flexible schedule, having good job security, and the ability to work in multiple healthcare settings.
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2 years

The Definitive Guide to Becoming a Medical Assistant

Do you love to help people? Does the healthcare sector fascinate you and was science your favorite school subject? If so, you may want to consider a career as a medical assistant. If you’ve always wanted to pursue finding a job in healthcare, then becoming a medical assistant is the fastest way to gain a foothold in this industry.

As a medical assistant, you’ll get to interact with patients directly and provide medications as well as first aid. If this sounds great to you, then read the following overview to learn how to become a medical assistant.

Complete a Medical Assisting Program to Gain a Diploma

Having a high school diploma and going straight into this field may provide enough education for this job, but it is much harder to gain a foot in the door. Completing a medical assisting program is imperative when searching how to become a medical assistant.

Postsecondary education programs including medical assisting diplomas provide a more clear-cut pathway that employers seek when hiring such assistants.

Furthermore, certification in medical assisting may help you get a more permanent position as well. As such, you will need to consider the right medical assisting program for you. Consider the accreditation and the classes available.

The best programs also ensure that you can experience both direct patient care as well as in-person or online courses. Learning patient care processes will be an imperative part of an effective medical assistant program.

Some of the best medical assisting programs include ones from Penn Foster, Keiser University, U.S. Career Institute, and Trident University.

Take on Internships to Gain Medical Assistant Experience

Since you’re interested in how to become a medical assistant, you’ll gain a better idea of whether you can handle this career after completing an internship or two in the medical assistant sphere.

You should try to get an internship toward the end of finishing up your diploma. Often, you can find a medical assistant program that includes unpaid internships as part of completing the coursework. This is usually a supervised internship in a medical setting.

A registered medical assistant is required to complete 160 hours of internships. Such work is essential for giving you confidence once you’re working in the healthcare field on a full-time basis.

You’ll want to add any internship jobs to your resume. This will give you a leg up when you’re applying for permanent and full-time medical assistant jobs.

Pass a Certification Exam

The third step needed to become a medical assistant includes passing the CMA (AAMA) certification exam or a similar certification process. The certified medical assistant examination requires you to fill out an application and pay a fee of $125.

The content that you will need to learn to pass the certification exam includes information on:

  • Nonverbal communication
  • Human development
  • Human behavior
  • Data collection
  • Healthcare regulations and medical laws
  • Therapies and responses in diverse populations
  • Professionalism skills
  • Death and dying statistics and stages

This exam includes 200 multiple choice questions and you will get three attempts to pass the test. You’ll get your score in the mail about three weeks after taking the test. If you passed the test, a CMA official certificate will arrive in the mail six weeks after getting your score.

You can take this test as early as one month before completing your medical assistant program, but you may want to wait until you have more time to prepare and study for the test.

Work on Your Resume and Add Key Skills

Think about your key skills for the medical assistant career. Once you’ve completed your internships and medical assistant program along with a certification, you’ll have a whole set of new skills to add to your resume.

You’ll have a better background in medical terminology and patient care techniques. You’ll also have the ability to conduct healthcare administrative tasks and the expert use of electronic health records. Add these abilities to your resume.

You should also add special people skills to your resume, such as:

  • Communication and etiquette skills
  • Empathy toward patients
  • The ability to multi-task

When you start sending your resume to employers, make sure you include a cover letter. In the cover letter, provide some examples of the important skills you’ve developed. There are many skills you likely developed when working as a part-time unpaid intern.

You’ll need to have stories to back up the abilities you mention in your resume once you interview for a job.

Apply to Medical Assistant Positions and Ace Those Interviews

The final step in getting a job as a medical assistant is to start applying to these positions and interviewing for the job. This is the last step before you start your career. You’ll need to have a great resume and prepare for the interviews. You may have phone interviews and then several in-person interviews.

You’ll need to show off your interpersonal skills during the interview and rehearse your answers to the typical interview questions in the healthcare industry. Make sure to apply for a variety of healthcare settings like clinics, pediatric offices, nursing homes, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers.

If it seems like you haven’t gotten many responses to your resume, you can always volunteer at a local hospital or nursing home to add more experience to your background. This may help you get that initial interview. The next step is to wow the hiring manager and show why you’re the right fit for the job.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Medical Assistant Profession

These are the most common questions people ask when researching the medical assistant profession.

What tasks are medical assistants responsible for?

Medical assistants tend to work along the side of a doctor and are responsible for administrative and clinical tasks. Some typical duties of a medical assistant include taking medical histories, explaining treatments to patients, and conducting basic laboratory exams.

Medical assistants also have the task of:

  • Helping doctors during physical exams
  • Collecting laboratory specimens
  • Discussing medications and diets with patients
  • Preparing and giving medicine to patients, including injections and vaccinations
  • Taking patients’ blood for testing
  • Discussing prescribed drug refills with patients and doctors
  • Handling wound care
  • Performing electrocardiograms

Furthermore, administrative tasks of medical assistants include answering phone calls, performing computer tasks, filling out medical coding and insurance forms, and scheduling appointments.

Medical assistants are also responsible for managing laboratory services and hospital admissions. They also take part in welcoming patients and updating their electronic medical records.

How long does it take to become a medical assistant?

After finishing high school, it will take about one or two years to complete a medical assistant program. Then, it should take about half a year to prepare for and pass the CMA certification exam.

Certifying agencies have slightly different timelines depending on their requirements. You may also want to spend a couple of months as an unpaid intern to gain more experience in the medical field. Furthermore, depending on the economy, it may take a few weeks or several months to apply for jobs and go on interviews before landing a job as a medical assistant.

Lastly, every five years, you’ll need to maintain your AAMA (CMA) certification or credential by completing 60 continuing education credits or taking the exam again.

Is becoming a medical assistant a good career path?

There are numerous reasons why becoming a medical assistant is a good career choice. First, this is a job that’s in high demand, as the hiring rate for medical assistants is expected to rise by 18.9 percent from 2020 to 2030.

The educational background for becoming a medical assistant is rather straightforward. Usually, the education program lasts only about two years or less. It doesn’t take long to become a medical assistant, which greatly simplifies the process.

You may even have the chance to take some courses online to make the process easier to schedule. The training requirements are also short and streamlined. As such, you’ll get to start working as a medical assistant much faster than when pursuing a nursing degree or a medical degree.

Once you gained your diploma and certification, you can work in a variety of different medical settings, such as public health agencies, medical practices, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient care settings.

Furthermore, as a medical assistant, you can work whatever hours best fit your schedule. You’ll have greater flexibility working the hours you prefer. This is especially helpful for parents who need to pick up their kids from school or those with other gigs in the mornings.

Essentially, becoming a medical assistant is a very good career move if you’re interested in the healthcare sector.

Wrap Up

If you’re interested in this career path, this guide shows you how to become a medical assistant. The many benefits of this career include gaining a flexible schedule, having good job security, and the ability to work in multiple healthcare settings.

It won’t take long to become a medical assistant either, as the program tends to last no longer than two years. Before you know it, you’ll help patients and work right alongside physicians.