1. Know the duties and responsibilities of a medical assistant
- Clinical medical assistants. These medical assistants focus on patient care, including taking vital signs, drawing blood, visual/hearing tests, preparing exam rooms for procedures, and much more.
- Medical administrative assistants. Other medical assistants’ work is focused more on the administrative side of patient care, including scheduling appointments, updating and maintaining patient records, handling insurance claims and additional accounting/billing tasks as needed.
Every job is different; some roles are more heavily involved in either clinical or administrative duties, while some roles incorporate both elements.
According to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical assistants most often work in physician’s offices (57%), with fewer working in state, local or private hospitals (15%). Most medical assistants work in smaller healthcare institutions, where individuals capable of handling both clinical and administrative tasks can be extremely valuable.
Medical assistants are vital contributors, collaborating with doctors, nurses and other professionals to ensure healthcare is delivered smoothly and efficiently.
2. Determine if medical assisting is right for you
According to the U.S. News and World Report, medical assistant ranks as the 10th best health care support job in the U.S., attributed primarily to the job market and future growth. That alone is a pretty good reason to become a medical assistant!
There are a few important traits medical assistants must have in order to truly thrive in the role:
- Be detail-oriented. In healthcare, the smallest mistake can have major consequences. Whether you’re taking vital signs or transferring medical records to an electronic database, you must be patient and pay close attention to detail.
- Strong interpersonal skills. Communication is key! You’ll work frequently with both patients and other healthcare staff.
- Enjoy working with others. You need to be an eager team player—and it can help if you have a more extroverted personality, who is energized in a social environment and enjoys meeting new people.
If this sounds like you, you might love working as a medical assistant.
If you consider yourself more introverted and seek a more behind-the-scenes role, you may find a better fit in other fields of allied health, including health information management, medical billing and coding, or sterile processing.
Current nursing assistants looking to advance their career might think about becoming a medical assistant. Going from CNA to MA can be a logical career step for CNAs looking to advance their healthcare career, but not necessarily in nursing.
3. Get educated
Once you’ve decided you’re ready to become a medical assistant, it’s time to choose an educational program.
Your best chance for success right off the bat in your first job is to enroll in a diploma or degree program designed to prepare you to work as a medical assistant.
Do I need a degree (or diploma)?
While it’s possible to work as a medical assistant without going to school (especially in very small clinics or rural areas), you will be at a disadvantage in the job search. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that medical assistants typically graduate from a postsecondary education program. Employers may prefer candidates who have already earned formal training.
Formal training also has an effect on your potential certification eligibility. For instance, in order to become eligible for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam, you will need to either complete a medical assisting training program or at least 1 year of professional experience. Our medical assistant diploma program can take as few as 8 months to complete. By completing a medical assisting training program, you can potentially become certified faster and position yourself better for educational advancement in the future.
Requirements for certification vary by state.
4. Earn experience
Earning real professional experience is crucial to becoming a medical assistant. While it’s possible in rare circumstances to find an entry-level medical assisting job that doesn’t require any formal education, you haven’t really become a medical assistant until you’ve proven to build the skills needed to do the job well.
The advantage of enrolling in a diploma or degree program is you’ll be introduced to key skills and knowledge at your own pace rather than jump right into the deep end, forced to learn at a high pace entirely on the job.
You’ll also earn real experience as part of your education. Our online medical assisting programs feature both clinical labs and an externship with proctor guidance to prepare you to succeed as a medical assistant. By the time you graduate you’ll be ready to hit it out of the park in your first medical assisting job.
5. Get certified
We want to help you become a highly qualified medical assistant—not only to find your first job, but to compete for the jobs you really want in the future.
Becoming certified is an excellent way to show employers you’re fully prepared to become a reliable asset, capable of both succeeding in the job in question and growing into advanced roles in the future!
Each of our medical assisting curriculums include prep for widely recognized medical assisting certifications:
- Diploma program: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
- Associate degree program: Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from the American Medical Technologists (AMT)
In each program we pay for your first attempt upon successful completion of the program.
Get educated, get certified, and prepare yourself best to find a job after graduation and succeed right off the bat.