How to Become a Medical Assistant in California
Medical assistants support licensed physicians, nurses, and other medical staff by performing administrative and clinical tasks in doctor’s offices and hospitals.
Becoming a medical assistant in California requires less formal education than most roles in the industry, making this career path ideal for those entering the workforce or changing occupations to pursue a job in healthcare.
Education and Training
Wondering how to become a medical assistant in California? Both certified and non-certified medical assistants must meet the specific requirements of the Medical Practice Act and the Medical Board of California.
According to these rules, aspiring medical assistants can take one of the following two paths to becoming a medical assistant in CA:
- Train under the supervision of a licensed medical professional, such as a physician, who can determine your competence as a medical assistant OR
- Complete a medical assistant training program at an accredited postsecondary school, technical institution, or community college.
Medical Assisting Programs in California
One of the best ways to kickstart your medical assistant career is to complete a trade school program that teaches healthcare fundamentals and provides access to internships. When looking for a medical assistant program in CA, make sure your chosen institution has the proper accreditation and offers externships in pediatrics, radiology, or other specialty fields that interest you.
Certificate programs allow future medical assistants to gain the education they need for the job, plus hands-on training for entry-level employment. Most take less than a year to complete, though you can pursue a two-year associate degree if you want more opportunities for career advancement and higher salary offers.
Courses of Study
Medical assistant programs in California often feature classes on:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Laboratory procedures
- Office and administrative skills
- Clinical applications
Medical Assistant Externships
Most medical assistant programs place students in externships or internships to get practical, hands-on experience and training. Here, students learn what it’s like to work in a medical office and perform the necessary tasks.
Usually, the externships are part of the overall curriculum, though some may continue outside of the program.
CA Medical Assistant Requirements
Before applying for a CMA job, there are a few medical assistant requirements in California that you’ll need to meet.
Most trade schools and certifying agencies require you to have a high school diploma or GED before applying to a technical or community college for their medical assistant program. Those looking to earn their associate degree may have to achieve a certain GPA to qualify.
Once you graduate from an accredited institution, consider becoming certified in the state of California. A California Certified Medical Assistant (CCMA) meets the qualifications of the California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants (CCBMA), which proctors official examinations to certify medical assistants in CA.
CA Certified Medical Assistant Requirements
To become a CMA in California, you must pass an objective exam through an official Medical Board of California organization, such as the CCBMA or the American Association of Medical Assistants.
The CCBMA proctors three types of tests:
- clinical exams
Medical assistants must take at least two of them.
To take the medical assistant certification exam in California, applicants must:
- Be 18 years or older
- Possess a current CPR certification
- Have a U.S. government-issued ID that matches your name on the application
- Graduate a medical assistant program or be currently employed as a medical assistant
It costs $145 to take the basic test along with the administrative or clinical exam through the CCBMA. Those who wish to take all three exam options must pay a fee of $185.
Other organizations have varying requirements and fees and typically sell or supply additional study materials.
Do Medical Assistants Have to Be Certified in CA?
The state of California does allow non-certified medical assistants to work in medical facilities. However, there are benefits to earning your certification.
First, some individual employers may require state or national certifications before considering you for hire. Plus, being certified gives you a competitive edge, proving to employers that you are more competent.
Medical Assistant Salaries in CA
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average medical assistant salary in CA is $44.7k, which equates to a little over $21.00 an hour. Compared to the national average of $38k, medical assistants in California make considerably more money.
Those with a certification stand a chance at earning even more, especially if they work in an outpatient care center or hospital.
California Medical Assistant Salaries by City
California is the fourth highest paying state for medical assistants, with the average salary in most areas rising above $40k.
The highest-paying metropolitan area in California is the Vallejo-Fairfield area, with an annual average salary of $58,670.
However, there are several other highly populated California cities where medical assistants have great earning potential. These include:
Both certified and non-certified medical assistants serve an essential role by performing supportive tasks that aid other medical professionals in their duties. Medical assistants work in various healthcare facilities, including doctor’s offices, outpatient clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and medical research centers.
Most medical assistant jobs start as entry-level employment under the direct supervision of a licensed medical professional, such as a physician or surgeon. During the job, you can learn the fundamentals of the field and uncover different specialties you might want to pursue, which may require further education in the future.
Since working in medical facilities involves moving quickly while performing several simultaneous duties, medical assistants must be able to function well under pressure. Organization and attention to detail are essential traits for performing administrative tasks, and having empathy, good communication, and active listening skills can help medical assistants connect with patients.
Each day on the job may look a little different for a medical assistant. Typically, they prepare and maintain patient medical records, schedule appointments, and stock offices and exam rooms with the necessary supplies. Depending on their certification, they might also assist with patient examinations, laboratory procedures, and surgical prep.
What Does A Non-Certified Medical Assistant Do?
Non-certified medical assistants are only qualified to perform non-invasive support services. This includes administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments, completing insurance forms, and setting up laboratory equipment. They help keep the work environment tidy and assist with some health-related duties while maintaining medical records for patients in the facility
Certified Medical Assistants in CA
CMAs, or qualifying medical assistants, work more closely with patients and medical personnel. Along with administrative work, certified medical assistants perform tasks like preparing and dispensing medications, assisting in wound care, and preparing lab samples. Depending on the scope of their training, CMAs may have access to more job opportunities than non-certified workers.
California currently has the highest employment level of medical assistants, with over 97,000 working in the state. There is also growing demand for more as preventive care among the baby boomer population increases in necessity.
In 2020, the Employment Development Department of California predicted a 29.2 percent growth rate for medical assistants in the state.