How to Become a Certified Medical Assistant

The healthcare field is exploding with opportunity. The vast population of aging baby boomers and because people are living longer has increased the demand for well-trained healthcare professionals. Nowhere is this more evident than in the career field of medical assisting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that employment for medical assistants will increase by 31% compared to other healthcare support positions, which are forecasted to grow by 25% over the next ten years.

If you plan on riding this wave of opportunity and are contemplating if a career as a certified medical assistant is the right choice for you, let’s take a moment to explore what it takes to become a medical assistant.

Important Aptitudes for a CMA:

So, what does it take to become a certified medical assistant? Well, besides education and training, there are several essential qualities that prospective medical assistants must possess to succeed:

· Interpersonal skills – Medical assistants work directly with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. They also assist patients and family members daily. In this role, they must be effective communicators and listeners.

· Analytical skills – Medical assistants complete medical histories and are often responsible for patient’s medical histories, scheduling appointments, and billing insurance companies. Attention to detail is a must when it comes to recording patient information.

· Professional demeanor – Medical assistants will be exposed to various patient concerns, fears, and anxieties. In this capacity, they must always stay professional and work with patients and family members to overcome fears and address any concerns.

· Technical skills – Well-trained medical assistants are comfortable using clinical instruments to provide routine medical tasks, such as taking vital signs and assisting doctors with patient examinations.

· Multitasking abilities – Medical assistants are responsible for juggling many tasks at any given time. Medical assistants may perform both clerical and clinical activities in some medical offices daily.

Finding the Right Medical Assistant Training Program

Now that you know what it takes to become a medical assistant – it’s time to start your search for the best education and training program to help launch your new career. Aspiring medical assistants can obtain a certificate or associate’s degree in medical assisting. Most certificate (diploma) programs take approximately nine months to a year; associate degree programs generally take two years for most students.

Finding the right school is essential. It’s up to you to do your due diligence regarding your potential school’s accreditation. Schools accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (ABHES) allow graduates to sit for certification examinations.

There are four national certification organizations recognized in the United States. Although certification is not mandatory, it will benefit you during your job search.

Before applying to your school of choice, also remember the following tips regarding your educational options:

  • Investigate the school’s prerequisite requirements
  • Look for externship options to gain hands-on experience.
  • Explore potential financial aid or loan options.
  • Ask guidance counselors about career placement services after graduation.
  • Know the school’s graduation rate for students in your field of study.
  • Find out about new specializations and courses offered at the school.
  • If you are a working student, look for convenient class options.
  • Know if your coursework is transferable toward a Bachelor’s program.

Along with the aforementioned suggestions, talking to current students is also a good idea. This will help you get a true feeling for the school’s program and understand the curriculum’s requirements.

Finding a Job as a Medical Assistant

Congratulations! You’ve graduated from school and obtained your certification. Now what? The first question you need to answer is, where do you want to work? Do you want to live in the city, or are you more comfortable in a rural setting? While there are many options for employment in a big city, people also get sick in smaller towns.

Another important factor to consider during your job search is income. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for medical assistants is just over $60,000.00, depending on geographical location. Salaries also can vary depending on the type of facility:

· Outpatient centers – $46,000.00

· Physician offices – $45,240.00

· Hospitals – $49,720.00

Your Future as a Certified Medical Assistant

After you have landed your dream job as a medical assistant, remember that you will continue to receive on-the-job training. This will be an important part of your career. Because technology and medical conditions are always changing, it’s up to you to stay on top of the latest trends and developments. This will not only serve you well during your career – it will also help you to provide the best possible care for your patients.

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