How to Become a Medical Assistant in Pennsylvania
To become a medical assistant in PA, job hopefuls must have the necessary training and education so they can perform their roles successfully.
Also, being a medical assistant can be a stepping stone to other healthcare careers.
Education and Training
While some smaller practices may offer on-the-job training, most medical assistants in PA must attend an accredited trade school or program. These programs provide students with the skills, education, and hands-on training needed to work in the medical field.
When choosing a medical assisting program in PA, look for schools or programs with accreditation awarded by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Employers recognize these organizations and often feel more confident hiring graduates from accredited schools.
Typical Courses of Study
Medical assistant schools in PA offer instruction on various topics about the human body, legal policies, and patient care.
Additionally, medical assistants must complete an externship as part of their training.
Some of the most common courses include:
- Medical terminology
- Law and ethics
- Clinical procedures
- Lab techniques
- Administrative procedures
How Long Does Training Take?
Most individuals complete their medical assistant training in under a year by attending a community college, trade school, or technical program. These programs typically offer a certificate or a diploma and include a 6-week externship, clinicals, classroom work, and laboratory practice.
Getting an associate degree is also a popular educational choice among job hopefuls.
An Associate of Applied Science, for example, is ideal for those who want to learn more about the field and eventually take on advanced healthcare roles. Although this degree can take two years to complete, it often leads to more job opportunities and higher wages.
How to Get into a Medical Assisting Program in PA
Trade schools in PA that offer medical assisting programs typically require students to be 18 or older and possess either a high school diploma or GED.
Some schools or community colleges may ask that students have a minimum GPA of 2.0 or higher. Many trade schools in Pennsylvania offer programs in healthcare, with courses offered in-person and online.
Additional Training for Medical Assistants in PA
Because a medical assistant’s job involves working directly with patients and sensitive information, they must be able to keep this information private. Employers ensure this by hiring individuals trained in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
Additionally, medical offices may use different types of software to keep track of patient medical records. Therefore, job hopefuls must learn the type of electronic health record (EHR) software their employers prefer and how to use it.
Employers may cover their EHR software as part of training. However, trade schools often include popular EHR programs in their curriculums.
Professional Associations for Medical Assistants in PA
The Pennsylvania Society of Medical Assistants provides members with resources to help them grow their careers as medical professionals. Affiliated with the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), this organization has chapters in several counties. Members can stay updated on legislative changes, find training and job opportunities, and connect with colleagues.
PA Medical Assistant Requirements
Pennsylvania does not administer state licenses to medical assistants and does not require specific certification.
However, medical assistant requirements in PA are employer-determined. For the most part, employers prefer to hire individuals who show competency and possess the appropriate training or certifications.
The Pennsylvania legislature does specify the conditions in which medical assistants can work. These conditions include working under the supervision of a physician who assumes full responsibility for the assistant’s actions.
In addition, all training must stay within the boundaries of a particular occupation and not go outside the determined scope of practice.
Why Become a Certified Medical Assistant in PA?
Certified Medical Assistants, or CMAs, have the necessary qualifications to perform administrative and clinical tasks. Many employers prefer to hire applicants with certifications, seeing it as proof of competency for the job.
After completing an accredited training program, graduates may sign up to take the certification exam.
Although several organizations offer certification, two of the most popular are the AAMA and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Exam fees vary depending on the agency you choose to administer your exam. The test covers general subjects like medical law and terminology as well as topics related to administrative and clinical tasks.
Those who wish to stay certified throughout their career must renew their CMA credentials every five years. After that, they can either retake the exam or submit continuing education credits for recertification. These credits are available through educational institutions as well as the training provided by the employer.
Medical Assistant Salaries in PA
The average medical assistant salary in PA is just under $37k. Entry-level workers typically earn around $29k or more.
The most experienced medical assistants in PA make an average annual salary of more than $40k. If an employer offers hourly wages, the average pay for a medical assistant in the state is between $17.00 and $18.00 an hour.
After completing a trade program and gaining certification as a CMA, job hopefuls stand a chance at earning more.
Some of the highest-paid medical assistants in the nation work at outpatient care centers like urgent care, nursing homes, and ambulatory surgery centers. Hospitals and doctor’s offices also pay well for this career.
PA Medical Assistant Salary by City
Medical assistant salaries in PA can differ according to where a person lives and works. The average annual wages for a medical assistant in these PA metropolitan areas are:
- Philadelphia – $39,930
- Pittsburgh – $34,920
- Allentown – $36,240
- Reading City – $36,120
- Erie – $32,870
As essential healthcare support workers, medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks inside doctor’s offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and other medical facilities.
Their primary duties can change depending on where they work, how large the practice is, and whether they specialize in a particular field like podiatry or ophthalmology.
In PA, medical assistants must be certified to perform certain tasks, as well. There are two types of medical assistants, and their responsibilities are as follows:
- Administrative Medical Assistant – This type of healthcare worker handles in-office tasks like recording patient history, completing insurance forms, scheduling appointments, taking phone calls, and maintaining or updating medical records.
- Clinical Medical Assistant – With the proper certifications, clinical medical assistants can measure vitals, administer medications, draw and prep blood samples, change wound dressings, and assist doctors with patient exams as well as administrative work.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the medical assisting field to grow faster than most occupations in the United States. With a national job growth rate of 16%, there could be close to 123,000 medical assistant job openings each year by 2031. Pennsylvania could also see exponential growth in this field as the population ages, increasing the need for medical care.