Medical assistants are an essential part of the healthcare system. They work in many different healthcare settings and provide the necessary skills to support the direct care of patients. Finding your first medical assistant job with no experience can seem daunting. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistant job openings are expected to grow at a rate of 19% (much faster than average) between 2019 and 2029. That means an additional 139,200 jobs.
That’s great news for you, the new medical assistant! But what if you don’t have experience? Don’t fret. There are many opportunities for you, too. We have compiled some brilliant tips for medical assistant job seekers who hold little to no work experience in the field, which will help them to get their first entry-level job.
Where to Look for Jobs?
Recent research has shown that CMAs with no experience still qualify for 43% of MA job openings. When in doubt, apply! Employers know that everyone starts somewhere, and they may be willing to give you a chance, especially if you have other relevant experiences on your resume.
Initiate on Job Search Engines
When starting your job search, use a website like indeed.com, where you can search for “medical assistant no experience” or “medical assistant entry-level” and see jobs that specifically have those words in the job listing. These jobs are a great place to start.
Explore Local Hospital Website
The website of your local hospital system is another excellent place to start your job search. The hospitals are often affiliated with local clinics, and their job postings will be on the hospital website, too. It will also give you an idea of what environments are hiring CMAs. For example, you may see that the hospital isn’t hiring for your position, but many clinics are. This will help you know what all of your potential job choices are.
Do Not Fixate on Medical Assistant Jobs
Don’t limit yourself. Widen your job search to include positions like a receptionist at a medical office. Many employers prefer to promote from within, and a position like that will get your foot in the door. Additionally, some employers will post a job looking for an LPN, but they may be willing to consider an MA for the job. Be ready to hear no, but you may be surprised at the opportunities that come your way if you expand your job search.
Look for an Externship
Another tactic is to get an externship. These are typically completed after you are done with your certificate, but before you have worked your first job. You can search for externships in the same way you search for jobs, or you can call physicians’ offices near you and ask if they offer medical assistant externships.
It gets you some real-world experience to add to your resume that will help you get your first job when the externship is complete. Additionally, sometimes an externship can lead to a job offer. Always take your duties in an externship seriously. Treat it like a job, and it might turn into one.
If you can’t find an externship, you may be able to find volunteer opportunities. These, too, boost your resume and show potential employers that you’re serious about your career path. Don’t turn down an opportunity just because it is unpaid. Think of volunteer gigs as opportunities to use your skills as an MA. They are also great places to network.
Ask the other medical volunteers where they work and if they are looking for medical assistants. If they are, ask if you can use their name on your application as the person who referred you. The hiring manager may ask them what it was like to work with you, so be sure that you’re professional in all of your interactions with other volunteers and patients. Someone is always watching, and you want them to be able to honestly say that you’d be a good fit for the job.
Maximize Your Resume
Did you have exceptional grades in your CMA program? Make a note of the same. Have you been a long-term caretaker for a family member? Add that in. Have you taken a related course, like medical coding? Make sure that’s listed. Did you do secretarial or CNA work while studying for your CMA? Highlight the skills you learned in your resume.
Even if you don’t have experience as a medical assistant, you may have done other work that uses the same skill sets. Take the time to really think about your life, work, and educational background. You may be pleasantly surprised at the transferable skills you have. Employers want to see those things. Your application may be more impressive than you realize. Make sure you’re painting yourself in the best light possible.
Use Your Resources
Excellent references are sure to give you a leg up over the competition. Don’t be afraid to ask a professor, volunteer coordinator, or current supervisor for a letter of recommendation. Don’t underestimate the power of these letters! Strong references can be the difference between getting a job and getting passed over. Think carefully about who to ask for a recommendation. Who have you impressed with your skills or work ethic? Start with them.
Ask your classmates where they work or if they’ve heard of local places that are hiring. Healthcare establishments are often hiring for many positions at the same time, so take advantage of any information your classmates might have. Your professors are another excellent source for job leads. They know where their students have been hired in the past, and they probably know which jobs have been good experiences and which haven’t. Use their knowledge to your advantage.
Be prepared for your interview. Dress professionally. Have a few questions ready to ask your interviewer. It shows that you’re interested and serious about the job. A good way to prepare is to google “common interview questions for medical assistants”, and think about how you would answer them. Practice answering some questions with a friend or classmate. Acing your very first interview may be a little easier said than done, but interviewing is a skill, and you can improve with repetition.
Take a deep breath. There are plenty of ways to get into the medical assisting field, even without experience. Keep applying! Investing time in your career and job search will pay off in the long run. Before you know it, you’ll be an experienced MA giving job search advice to new grads.
Can You Work as a Medical Assistant in the US without Certification
In the US, a medical assistant (MA) is not required by law to have formal training or national certification, unlike a registered nurse (RN). Though it is recommended that you obtain national certification, it is not mandatory for you to have one before practicing. Many medical assistants have procured certification while working in clinical and ambulatory settings.
Qualified medical assistants are essential, but so are experienced medical assistants with relevant exposure. Having a certification allows you to enjoy a cutting edge over other contemporaries and allows you the chance to get better job opportunities and average annual salaries.
Do Employers Ask for a Medical Assistant Certification?
It is widely believed that employers, in most cases, ask for an MA certification, but how true is that statement? Most MA aspirants believe an MA national certification gives them an edge when it comes to the employer’s choice. The truth here is the only thing that gives MA aspirants an edge over other candidates in front of their employer is relevant experience.
A medical assistant certification is not mandatory, and there are no acceptable standards outlined for practice. Hence, relevant experience in the field and real-world clinical exposure makes a real difference. However, it is always better if you have a national certification, as that increases your chances of career advancement significantly.
Is it Beneficial to get a Certification?
Having national certification for medical assistants has many advantages. Here are the top 4 benefits:
- Certification is an assurance of your qualification and training – To procure national certification, you must obtain formal training from an accredited school that adheres to the professional standards that would be required for the job.
- Certification increases your employability – Having certification makes you eligible for the best jobs as they work as proof of your skills as a medical assistant at nationally accepted standards. American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) states they receive more than 100 employer requests for certification for new and current medical assistant employees.
- Certification ensures lifelong training and learning – Learning is an ongoing process. After obtaining your national certification, you would be required to renew it every 3 or 5 years, which would require you to be closely associated with the field to be eligible for recertification. You would have to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies, treatment procedures, and the like.
- Certification would allow you to earn more than the mean average salary – Qualified and experienced medical assistants with certification earn more annual salaries than their non-certified counterparts.
Can you Take Medical Assistant Exam without Attending School?
Attending a medical assistant school is mandatory for taking the MA exam held by the AAMA. However, for taking the certification examinations held by NHA, NCCT, and AMT, one must fulfill eligibility criteria other than attending an MA school.
What Happens if you are not a Certified Medical Assistant?
If you’re not a certified medical assistant, you need to possess a stellar resume that reflects a complete work experience in technical and specialized domains. Your shadowing and volunteering experience must also be added.
Take a look at some handcrafted medical assistant resume templates, for help.
You must also be an MA aspirant who is a fast learner and willing to learn, as employers prefer individuals who exhibit these skills. You can take up other entry-level positions in allied healthcare and then work your way up through experience if you do not have certification. Go for other clinical and ambulatory settings than traditional and well-established ones, like hospitals, for employment. A private office or a clinic might be an excellent place to start.
However, we recommend that you get certification via an online, hybrid medical assistant program or one that’s a diploma, as more and more employers are demanding it and laying off MAs without certification.
How to Land a Job as a Medical Assistant without Certification?
Landing a job without certification is difficult but not impossible. Here’s how you can do it:
- Opt for jobs in non-traditional clinical and ambulatory settings. Instead of a hospital, go for clinics, private practice outpatient clinics, and private offices.
- Join related entry-level positions, get on-job training and work your way up if you’re a non-certified medical assistant.
- Have specialization and relevant experience in your specialization so that you’re an MA that’s indispensable to an organization.
- Be a fast learner and exhibit interest in your interview