Medical Assistant Programs

patient getting help

Ever-expanding, the healthcare industry provides a range of well-paying and rewarding careers. Medical assistant jobs are ideal for those looking to work with patients without spending several years at a university.

Education & Training

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With the United States’ aging population, there continues to be a growing demand for medical care. Prospects trained in medical assistant trade schools are in an excellent position to benefit financially as well as help people.

How Long Does It Take?

The online courses above are affiliated with a local school and can be completed in as little as 12 months.

However, the length of time it takes to become a medical assistant depends on the type of training you receive. If you attend a vocational school, you can complete the program in about nine months. If you go to college and earn an associate’s degree, it will take about two years. If you go to college and earn a bachelor’s degree, it will take four years.

How Much Does It Cost?

If you’re looking for an affordable way to get into the healthcare field, then becoming a certified medical assistant may be just what you need. A legitimate online course that provides preparation to become certified, such as the ones above, will cost between $3,500 and $4000.

There are many different types of programs available today and each has its own costs and requirements.  However, this depends on the certification and type of training program you choose.  This is significantly cheaper than many other types of healthcare training programs out there today.

What Do You Study?

The curriculum for most courses will cover topics like:

  • anatomy
  • physiology
  • pharmacology
  • patient care principles
  • communication skills

You’ll also learn about different types of equipment used in the health care industry so that when it comes time for the certification exam, nothing will surprise you.

Benefits of School

Hands-on Experience

Going to school will prepare you for the certification exam by giving you hands-on experience working with patients and medical equipment. It also allows you to build your resume through volunteer work or internships at local hospitals.

Builds Your Confidence

The best part about attending medical assistant school is that it helps build your confidence in yourself and your abilities. You’ll have access to instructors who know what they’re talking about and can teach you everything from how to handle emergencies to how to complete administrative tasks like scheduling appointments and managing patient records.

Job Prospects & Income

Medical assistants who have completed training programs tend to make more money than those who haven’t gone through such programs. This means that even if you don’t plan on staying in the medical field for long, getting certified could end up being a great way to boost your resume before applying for other jobs or starting higher education programs.

Salary

How Much Can You Make?

Below is a list of salaries and hourly wages per state.

Area Name Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
Alabama $15.62 $32,480.00
Alaska $23.75 $49,400.00
Arizona $19.40 $40,350.00
Arkansas $16.32 $33,940.00
California $23.01 $47,850.00
Colorado $21.26 $44,220.00
Connecticut $21.12 $43,920.00
Delaware $18.32 $38,110.00
District of Columbia $24.05 $50,020.00
Florida $18.21 $37,870.00
Georgia $18.06 $37,560.00
Guam $13.69 $28,480.00
Hawaii $21.17 $44,030.00
Idaho $19.30 $40,140.00
Illinois $19.58 $40,730.00
Indiana $19.19 $39,920.00
Iowa $19.40 $40,360.00
Kansas $17.70 $36,820.00
Kentucky $16.71 $34,760.00
Louisiana $15.33 $31,890.00
Maine $19.91 $41,400.00
Maryland $19.86 $41,310.00
Massachusetts $22.18 $46,130.00
Michigan $17.88 $37,190.00
Minnesota $22.76 $47,330.00
Mississippi $15.47 $32,180.00
Missouri $17.66 $36,720.00
Montana $19.61 $40,780.00
Nebraska $18.92 $39,360.00
Nevada $18.88 $39,270.00
New Hampshire $20.61 $42,870.00
New Jersey $20.21 $42,030.00
New Mexico $17.58 $36,570.00
New York $21.16 $44,020.00
North Carolina $18.38 $38,230.00
North Dakota $18.70 $38,900.00
Ohio $18.06 $37,560.00
Oklahoma $16.70 $34,740.00
Oregon $22.22 $46,220.00
Pennsylvania $18.73 $38,950.00
Puerto Rico $11.50 $23,910.00
Rhode Island $19.51 $40,580.00
South Carolina $17.33 $36,040.00
South Dakota $17.12 $35,610.00
Tennessee $17.56 $36,520.00
Texas $17.75 $36,910.00
Utah $18.35 $38,160.00
Vermont $20.28 $42,170.00
Virgin Islands $18.10 $37,650.00
Virginia $19.04 $39,600.00
Washington $24.21 $50,350.00
West Virginia $15.53 $32,300.00
Wisconsin $20.24 $42,110.00
Wyoming $18.89 $39,300.00

Occupation:Medical Assistants (SOC Code319092)
source: data.bls.gov

The average annual salary for a medical assistant was $37,190 in 2021, according to the BLS. However, this figure varies widely depending on where you live and how much experience you have under your belt.

Requirements

What Does It Take to Become a Medical Assistant?

As with any other job, you’ll need some training before you can start working as one. There are two main routes for getting trained for this position: either going through an accredited school or taking an online course through an accredited school.

In both cases, you’ll have to pass an exam at the end of your training period.

Requirements to Attend School

You’ll need to be at least 18 years old, and have graduated from high school or have a GED. You’ll also need good English skills and computer literacy.

Certification

aama logoThe American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) requires all certified medical assistants to pass a national certification exam after completing their education.

There are a few exams that medical assistants can pass to be certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).

Career Overview

Job Description

What Do They Do?

Certified medical assistants perform basic tasks that aid in creating an efficient and clean health facility. Duties are dependent upon the position’s focus, type of office, or specialized treatment given at the location.

There is a need for medical assistants throughout the United States. Regardless of the region, numerous healthcare and medical facilities need dedicated staff. Across the country, nearly seven-hundred thousand Americans are employed as medical assistants.

Since a medical assistant skill set is so varied, they can be hired into a number of facilities. Possible positions range widely, making it difficult to keep track of the different options. Some common capacities in which newly-trained medical assistants find work are:

  • Administrative
  • Clinical
  • Ophthalmic & Optometric
  • Podiatric
  • Chiropractic
  • Pediatric
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology

Job Duties

As the field is so diverse and covers a range of particular medical practices, there are many tasks that a medical assistant must perform. Duties split into two general categories, clinical and administrative.

Front office workers greet walk-ins, answer phone calls, and assist in scheduling appointments. Furthermore, they record patient history and personal information before cataloging them. The majority of their day involves sitting at a desk and using computers as well as other office equipment.

Clinical assistants provide assistance to physicians. New-hires might measure vital signs, help with examinations, or give sufferers injections and medicines. After the initial exam, these workers often explain treatment procedures, prepare blood samples for testing, and instruct patients about medicine and diets.

Additional everyday duties include:

  • Coding and filling out of insurance forms
  • Arrange for hospital admissions
  • Perform basic laboratory tests
  • Handle correspondence, billing, and bookkeeping
  • Remove sutures and change dressings
  • Transmit prescription refills
  • Give electrocardiogram tests

How Do Medical Assistants Maintain Their Workspace?

Cleanliness is of the utmost importance in health facilities. Medical assistants play a crucial role in keeping their workplace tidy. Associates regularly restock exam room cabinets with supplies like cotton balls, gloves, and tongue depressors. More common medical assistant tools workers use are:

  • Stethoscopes
  • Autoclaves
  • Blood pressure meters
  • Ear scopes
  • Examination tables
  • Scales
  • Hemoglobin machines

What Types of Skills Should a Medical Assistant Possess?

Analytical Skills

It is important medical assistants understand and follow medical diagnoses and charts. Those in administrative capacities code patients’ medical records for billing. Therefore prospects must have analytical skills. Taking information from files or medical histories and translating them into action calls are sound analytic abilities.

Detail Oriented

When dealing with a person’s health, there are fine margins. A medical assistant has to be detail-oriented. Being precise during vital sign checks or gathering data is critical to ensure sick or injured people receive proper care. Doctors and insurance companies depend on correct medical documents.

Cool Headed

As these professionals interact with sufferers in distress or pain, they are expected to act in a calm and professional manner at all times. In addition, medical assistants discuss sensitive material among other medical personnel. Great interpersonal skills allow hopefuls to excel.

Technical Skills

Office staff members perform basic examinations, so they should know how to use medical assistant equipment. Technical skills are imperative since taking patients’ vital signs, like heart rate and blood pressure is an everyday task.

Empathy

Medical assistants are key in helping sick persons feel at ease. They explain the physician’s instructions and answer additional questions. Technical language is often difficult to interpret, so it’s important patients comprehend health advice. These worker’s main goal is to facilitate physical and mental wellness for those receiving treatment.

Where Do They Work?

Just because medical assistants are usually employed in physicians’ offices, outpatient treatment centers, and hospitals does not mean there aren’t other enticing employment opportunities. Additional locations medical assistants ply their trade are:

  • Podiatrists’ offices
  • Chiropractors
  • Diagnostic laboratories
  • Optometry offices
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Colleges and universities
  • Clinical psychologist’s office

Can You Work Remotely?

As technologies progress, the prospects for medical assistants who wish to operate from home are increasing. Companies who provide staffing solutions to small as well as large health facilities employ remote workers. As these associates are not physically at the facility, their capacity is exclusively on the administrative side.

Working remotely involves scheduling appointments and calling to offer reminders in addition to answering routine questions. They process new clients, update current patients’ records, and transmit prescription refills. Among the common clerical duties, virtual employees also transcribe voicemails, physician notes, and document visits.

What is a Typical Workday Like?

Workday’s are challenging and fast-paced, regardless of front or back office positions. Most medical assistants work full-time, but hours differ with each business. As some medical facilities are always open, team members’ shifts cover evenings, weekends, and even holidays.

Everyone gets sick, therefore medical assistants encounter a vast range of different people. In pain and seeking assistance, patients can often put pressure on the staff member attempting to provide them care. Therefore, a good professional in this field must remain calm even under the most stressful of circumstances.

Be sure to read the interview with a medical assistant at the bottom of this article.

Applying for Jobs

Medical assistant requirements do not include a certificate in most states. As a result of the field’s growth and rising competition for positions, however, employers do prefer to hire those with medical assistant degrees.

So while a secondary education might not be essential, it certainly makes acquiring jobs easier.

In order for prospects to show they have suitable medical assistant training, hopefuls need to pass an exam and meet at least one other qualification to receive a certificate.

The qualifications consist of either graduation from an accredited program or relevant work experience. Applicants also must be 18 years old before applying.

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies currently accredits five groups to offer exams and subsequent medical assistant certificates:

  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association
  • National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association

There is no difference between any certification in regards to one being more prestigious than another. But differences do exist between health facilities. So, when completing a medical assistant resume, be sure to add certifications relevant to the job opening.

Career Path

Becoming a medical assistant is an excellent foot in the door. Once employed, there are many advancement opportunities available to ambitious candidates. Some positions that are a natural next step include:

  • Medical office manager
  • Clinical team leader
  • Medical office secretary
  • Medical records manager

With experience, medical assistants have the chance to hone their skills and acquire leadership roles. Further education can help hopefuls advance toward alternative healthcare occupations such as physician’s assistant, registered nurse, or nurse practitioner.

What Are Alternate Careers for Medical Assistants?

Those beginning in a medical assistant career can eventually explore new lucrative and rewarding fields. The duties vary from a medical assistant’s typical ones, but there are plenty of places for cross-over. Additional job paths one might take are:

Career Outlook

The hiring of medical assistants is growing rapidly. An increasing number of physicians, clinics, and healthcare facilities are in need of support from those with a medical assistant education. While they enjoy favorable job prospects in general, medical assistant school graduates greatly improve their chances.

The median annual wage for medical assistant work is roughly $33k. Location as well as the office’s focus do effect compensation. Outpatient care centers pay approximately $35k. Hospitals typically offer a salary of $34k. Medical assistants employed by a physician earn $33k. These figures are averages, and after dedicated service to an employer, candidates are able to earn much more.

Around 96 percent of full-time medical assistants are eligible for a benefits package from their employer. Medical assistant benefits to the average industry worker include:

  • Major medical insurance
  • Dental coverage
  • Paid vacation
  • Vision coverage
  • Retirement plans
  • Disability coverage

Interview with a Medical Assistant

Q&A with a Medical Assistant

An interview with Janet, who is a medical assistant at a doctor’s office in California.  Janet completed a medical assistant program at American Career College in  Los Angeles.

Q: Why did you decide to get this type of training?

A: I had heard that there is a shortage of people in the medical industry, not just with nursing, but with all areas of the field. I really don’t have the stomach for working on the frontline, but I wanted a job where I could help people and where I could be pretty sure my job would be stable.  With the way the economy is right now, I am really glad I decided to go this way with my career.

Q: What is your current career?

A: I am a medical assistant at a local doctor’s office. Most of what I do would be considered to be secretarial – handling phone calls, filing medical records, scheduling appointments, that sort of thing.

Q: How did your training help you get into this career?

A: Well, I already had some secretarial experience, but I wanted to specialize in a certain area so I could have better job opportunities and so I could make more money.  I would have never landed this job if I hadn’t completed the program at America Career College.  I think some doctors do provide on the job training, but the doctor I work for doesn’t. Besides, if you have the schooling, you can get a higher pay rate.

Q: How would things be different for you if you hadn’t received this training?

A: As I mentioned, I never would have landed this job if I hadn’t received the training.  So, I suppose I still would have tried to pursue a job in the field by looking for someone who doesn’t require medical assistant training, but I think it would have been a lot harder to find a job and I probably wouldn’t be making as much money as I do now.

Q: Were you happy with the training that you received?

A: Yes, definitely.  It took less than a year to complete the program and I was able to work on my own schedule.  Not only that, but the classes really helped get me prepared for the job.

Q: What was your favorite class?

A: It’s hard to say, but I think the anatomy class was the most interesting. Like I said, I have a bit of weak stomach, so some of that stuff can be difficult for me to look at.  Still, it is interesting to me.

Q: What class do you think was the most useful?

A: For what I do, I think  the office business procedures class was probably the most useful because I do mostly clerical type work.

Q: How long did it take you to complete the program?

A: Just 8 months!

Q: How much did it cost for you to complete the program?

A: I was able to qualify for financial assistance.  So, by the time all was said and done, really only cost me a few hundred dollars out of my own pocket.

Q: Did you go to school on a full-time or part-time basis?

A: I went full-time while working a part time job during the day.  I took the evening classes, which ran from 4:00 to 10:30 at night four days per week.  I guess it did make for long days, but it wasn’t too bad since the program only lasted for 8 months.

Q: Would you recommend this school to someone else? Why or why not?

A: Yes, for anyone who is interested in becoming a medical assistant, I think it is a great program. The teachers are nice, the program is interesting, scheduling is flexible and you can complete the program in just 8 months.

Q: If you could do it all over again, would you?

A: Yes, definitely.  The program really helped give me the training I needed to get the type of job I wanted.

Q: What was the most difficult part of the program for you?

A: The long days were rough sometimes.  Even though I worked part-time, I still had to put a lot of hours into going to school and working. So, keeping focused was hard at times.

Q: About how many other students were in your classes?

A: It varied by class, but I don’t think I ever had any more than maybe 15 or 20 people in a class.

Related Resources

Becoming a Medical Assistant in CA

Becoming a Medical Assistant in FL

Becoming a Medical Assistant in GA

Becoming a Medical Assistant in IL

Becoming a Medical Assistant in PA

Becoming a Medical Assistant in NY

Becoming a Medical Assistant in TX