Medical Assistants are the professionals who assist doctors and physicians in various healthcare settings and are cross-trained to render both clinical and administrative duties. They are also known as clinical assistants, nursing assistants, and medical office assistants.
An MA performs routine administrative and clinical tasks under the supervision of doctors or other healthcare professionals. Depending on the laws of the jurisdiction, their duties may vary.
On the basis of their education and tasks they perform, medical assistants are of 4 types.
Administrative MAs mostly work in physicians’ offices and perform administrative tasks. They must have superb verbal and written communication skills, an understanding of medical terminology, and computer skills to deliver their duties effectively.
Clinical MAs work closely with patients and manage clinical tasks. An organized and multi-tasking candidate with compassion and excellent communication skills is perfect for this job role. They may find employment in hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, nursing homes, etc.
Certified MAs are the nurses who possess credentials through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). These professionals have better job opportunities and earn a higher salary package than non-certified MAs.
The duties of specialized MAs depend on their areas of specialization, such as oncology, pediatrics, geriatrics, cardiology, endocrinology, etc. They work directly with critical patients under the supervision of physicians.
To become a certified medical assistant, aspirants are required to complete their training in medical assistance and clear the certification exam conducted by the AAMA. The entire process from completing training to gaining certification may take between 9 months to 3 years.
|Step 1||High School Diploma or GED||3 months to 4 years|
|Step 2||Medical Assistant Training||9 months to 2 years|
|Step 3||Medical Assistant Certification||Less than 1 year|
However, if you choose an accelerated medical assistant program, you can complete your training in 6 weeks.
The cost to become an MA depends on various factors, such as:
The cost of a 1-year certificate program through a community college may vary from $2,500 to $10,000, whereas a 2-year associate degree through a community college may cost you between $6,000 and $15,000. In addition to the tuition fees, students have to incur other costs as well, such as books and supplies, room and boarding, transportation, certification exam fee, certification renewal fee, etc.
However, qualifying students can avail financial aid to cover some of their expenses. The following financial grants are available:
Aspirants are expected to meet specific eligibility criteria to be a medical assistant.
The first step towards your journey of becoming an MA is to enroll yourself into a medical assistant school accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or any other recognized body. Aspirants must take note of the fact that they won’t be considered eligible to appear for the certification exam of medical assistance if they complete their education from a non-accredited nursing school.
An accredited medical assistant school provides you 3 choices – diploma program, certificate program, and degree program (associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree).
|Duration||About 1 year||About 1 year||2-4 years|
|Curriculum||General education coursework||A little more detailed than a certificate program||More intensive than certificate and diploma courses|
|Advancement Opportunity||Entry-level job||More opportunities than certificate holders||Lucrative opportunities for career advancement along with a higher salary|
|Institutions||Technical and vocational schools||Technical and vocational schools||Community colleges and universities|
You can become a medical assistant by choosing any of the following 3 training programs:
If you pick this training program, you will have to complete your entire training (classroom and laboratory sessions) during set schedules, in a traditional campus setting and well thought out learning environment. You can have face-to-face communication with your mentors.
If you have some family commitments or you are into a full-time job, online courses are the best option for you. These programs let you study at your convenience and comfort. However, before graduation, you will have to complete an externship in a clinical setting.
This program allows you to complete the theoretical part of your studies online, but you are supposed to complete lab work on-campus. These programs need a high level of organization and dedication on the part of students. One of the benefits of hybrid training is that it reduces the time and cost associated with commuting.
An externship provides you an exposure to real-life clinical settings and an opportunity to get hands-on clinical training under the supervision of experienced medical professionals. You can complete your externship from a medical facility or a local clinic. An externship not only develops your skills but also helps you foster and grow your professional network, which, later on, can be leveraged to get a job.
A certificate is an acknowledgment of your skills and knowledge about the domain. You can get any of the following five certifications listed by the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics). All these certifications are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
|Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Certification||The American Association of Medical Assistants|
|Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Certification||The American Medical Technologists|
|Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) Certification||The National Healthcareer Association|
|Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) Certification||The National Healthcareer Association|
|National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) Certification||The National Center for Competency Testing|
For obtaining the MA certification, candidates will have to qualify for the certification exam organized by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
In the era of fierce competition, it’s a herculean task to get your dream job. Nonetheless, an impeccable resume and cover letter can give you an edge over other job applicants.
The resume and cover letter must be short and snappy, highlighting all your qualifications and skills. Use appropriate healthcare industry terminology and keywords that grab the attention of the prospective employer. Ensure that your resume and cover letter have no spelling and grammatical errors.
Put in a little more effort and time to do research on the job you are applying for and the potential employer. Accordingly, customize your resume and cover letter to fit the job requirements. It will leave an excellent impression and showcase that you are genuinely interested in becoming a part of the organization.
Although many jobs are available for medical assistants in the USA, landing the right job being a fresher is quite tricky. Sometimes, simply applying for a job with clinics and physician’s offices won’t work; you have to expand your job search. Here are a few tips to jump-start the hunt for your first medical assistant job:
Be persistent with your efforts, and keep patience while searching for the medical assistant job.
Got an interview call? Voila! You have climbed the first step to get your dream job. But keep in mind that a few less-than-perfect answers may shatter your hopes. So, prepare yourself well for the interview.
Think of all the questions that are relevant to the role you have applied for and prepare their answers. Also, ponder about the value you can bring to the table for the employer. The interviewer may ask the following questions:
These are some sample interview questions; you may also encounter several questions related to practice-specific, hard skills, and cultural fit. Another important thing to keep in mind while appearing for the medical assistant interview is – present yourself well.
You can broaden your horizons by pursuing advanced educational courses. It will not only add to your skills and knowledge but will also increase chances for promotion and career advancement in other medical fields.
As a certified MA, you will have to perform both clinical and administrative tasks. That’s why; you must have the following skills to carry out your duties effectively.
The job prospects for medical assistants are expected to grow by 23% from 2018 to 2028, and there will be 154,900 openings for these professionals during these 10 years. This growth is attributed to the increasing demand for aging baby-boom and their requirements for medical services.
|Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly||13,050|
|Outpatient Care Centers||57,240|
|Offices of Other Health Practitioners||57,680|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||97,600|
|Offices of Physicians||389,160|
Source: BLS (as of May 2018)
According to the above graph, the jobs for medical assistants are expected to reach 850,000 by the year 2025.
Education, certification, work experience, employer, and geographical location are some of the significant factors that affect the salary of medical assistants. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean hourly wage of medical assistants was $16.61 and mean annual salary was $34,540, as of May 2018.
|Percentile||Annual Wage||Hourly Wage|
From the above table, it can be concluded that:
Salary of Medical Assistants in Different Healthcare Settings
|Offices of chiropractors||$29,960|
|Offices of physicians||$33,650|
|Hospitals; private, state and local||$34,980|
|Outpatient care centers||$35,600|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (as of May 2018)
After completing certification and getting exposure to various healthcare areas, MAs can advance their careers in allied health management, medical coding, nursing, etc. as transcription supervisor, healthcare administrator, medical assistant instructor, medical office manager, clinical team leader, lead medical assistant, etc.
Dental assistants are the essential members of the dental care team who assists dentists in various treatment procedures. From patient care and x-rays to scheduling appointments and recordkeeping, dental assistants perform varied tasks.
Dental hygienists work to promote optimum oral health. They formulate a patient-centered dental care plan, educate patients regarding preventive oral care and oral hygiene, and evaluate the outcome of educational strategies.
Physical therapy assistants work with physical therapists to ensure overall wellness and fitness, relieve pain, and improve mobility in patients having movement difficulties due to disease or injury. From children to elderly, they provide care for patients of all ages.
These professionals organize and manage health-related data and information in both electronic systems and paper files. They ensure the quality, accessibility, accuracy, and security of data in compliance with the legal, regulatory, and ethical requirements of the healthcare system.
Phlebotomists perform venipuncture to draw blood from a patient for transfusions, donations, or medical testing. They may work in blood donation centers, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, clinical laboratories, etc.
These are the medical professionals who help patients suffering from disabilities, injuries, and illnesses perform routine activities. They prepare and implement treatment plans for patients and monitor their progress. They help patients do stretches, exercises, and other therapeutic activities.
Licensed practical nurses work under the supervision of doctors and registered nurses to provide primary nursing care to patients. They take vital signs, assist patients in bathing and movement, administer medications, report any change in the health condition of patients to doctors, etc.
Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in preparing and distributing medicines to patients. They may get employment in grocery stores, drugs, hospitals, and other medical settings.