Medical assistants play an important role in the allied health industry. They work closely with doctors and other medical professionals to assist in the delivery of care to patients. Many medical assistants become certified to prove to employers that they have the skills and knowledge to safely care for patients.
Obtaining medical assistant certification typically requires several steps, like completing an accredited medical assistant training program, gaining any required work experience and passing a certification exam. So, how long does this process usually take?
Medical Assistant Job Description and Requirements
Medical assistant job duties can range from helping physicians with clinical procedures to performing administrative tasks in the front office to a combination of both. These allied health professionals provide assistance in doctors’ offices and other healthcare settings. It’s possible to learn the skills needed for these duties on the job, but most people opt for medical assistant training programs. Since employers generally prefer to hire certified medical assistants, certification is also a common step to becoming a medical assistant.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Medical Assistant?
While career paths can vary, many people take 3 steps to become a medical assistant.
Medical Assistant Career Path
|Step 1||GED or High School Diploma||Career-Relevant Courses: Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computers & Business||3 Months to 4 Years|
|Step 2||Post-Secondary Medical Assistant Training||Training & Instruction in Clinical Procedures & Clericals Tasks||9 Months to 2 Years|
|Step 3||Medical Assistant Certification||Studying for & Taking Exam||Less than 1 Year for AAMA Certified Medical Assistant|
How Long Is a Medical Assistant Program?
In most states, post-secondary medical assistant training programs can improve employment opportunities. Vocational schools and community colleges are two educational institutions that offer these programs. Program lengths and courses can vary with the institution. Upon graduation from a community college, a student could earn an associate’s degree, diploma, certificate or even a bachelor’s degree.
|Vocational School||Community College|
|Program Length||9 to 12 Months||Varies; typically 2 years for an associate’s degree|
|What’s Learned||Clinical & Medical Knowledge & Practices||Clinical & Medical Knowledge & Practices Plus General Education|
|Credential||Diploma or Certificate||Associate Degree|
|Considerations||Quicker Program Length, More Focused Program & Typically Less Expensive||College Credits May Be Transferrable to a University & May Help with Positions in Specialty Medicine|
How to Get Medical Assistant Certification
There are several types of medical assistant certifications issued by multiple organizations. The specific requirements for each type of medical assistant certification can vary, but generally an individual must be at least 18 years old before applying, meet the organization’s eligibility requirements (usually complete an accredited medical assistant program and/or work experience), and pass an exam.
Below are the steps necessary to obtain Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
Path to Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant
|Step 1||Confirm You Meet Eligibility Requirements||Complete a Medical Assisting Program Accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Take the Exam within 30 Days of Finishing the Program or 12 Months after Graduating|
|Step 2||Obtain Necessary Documentation||Those Applying 12 Months After Graduating Need Their Official Medical Assistant Program Transcripts|
|Step 3||Review Information & Policies for the Exam||See Candidate Application and Handbook for the CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification Examination|
|Step 4||Choose a Start Date for 90-Day Testing Period||Online & Mailed Paper Application Timelines Vary|
Testing Period Starts Between 1-2 Months after Application Is Received
|Step 5||Monitor Your Email||Keep a Valid Email Address for 1 Year after Applying for Exam & Monitor Regularly for Notifications|
|Step 6||Apply for Exam||Apply Online or Via Mail & Submit Fee: $125 for Current Students. Recent Graduates $125 for AAMA Members or $250 for Nonmembers|
|Step 7||Maintain Correct Profile Information||Update Name, Postal Address & Email on a Timely Basis|
|Step 8||Schedule Exam||Make an Appointment ASAP for the Exam after Receiving Your ‘Appointment Scheduling Permit’|
|Step 9||Prepare for the Exam||Use the AAMA Exam Content Outline, CMA Practice Exam, Textbooks, and Review Courses to Prepare for the Exam|
|Step 10||Complete the Exam||You’ll Receive a Pass/Fail Notification at the Test Center after Taking the Exam.|
|Step 11||Watch for Your Official Exam Scores||Official Exam Scores Should Arrive within 3 Weeks of Taking the Test|
|Step 12||Watch for Your Certificate||Your CMA Certificate Should Arrive about 3 Weeks after Your Official Exam Scores. The Certification Is Valid for 60 Months.|
Midwest Technical Institute (MTI) schedules students of its 9-month medical assistant program for the American Association of Medical Assistants’ (AAMA) National Medical Assistant (CMA) Certification Exam before graduation. MTI offers medical assistant training at its campuses in:
Starting a Career as a Medical Assistant
The path to becoming a medical assistant typically involves medical assistant training and a certification exam. This process can take between 1 and 3 years. Once completed, certified medical assistants often enjoy greater employment opportunities in one of the fastest growing occupations.  Plus, they get the satisfaction of helping people on a daily basis.
If you have questions regarding the career path of a medical assistant, our helpful Admissions Representatives can help.