Medical assistants help doctors provide medical care to patients. Safely treating patients is important to physicians and healthcare practices. Many employers require that medical assistants be certified to ensure they have the necessary skills and competency to care for patients. So, what are the requirements to become a certified medical assistant?
What Is the Role of a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants play supportive roles in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other healthcare settings. Depending on the size of the practice, they may help out in the front office with customer service and business administration tasks or assist the doctor in the back office by preparing patients for treatments, for example by taking vital signs or blood samples. In some doctors’ offices, medical assistants are responsible for administrative and clinical tasks. Learn more about what a medical assistant does.
Medical Assistant Education Requirements
Educational Steps to Becoming a Medical Assistant
|Medical Assistant Career Path||Type of Career Preparation||What to Expect||Preferred by Employers or Required|
|Step 1||High School Diploma or GED||Courses in or Study of Chemistry, Biology, Anatomy, Computers & Business Can Be Helpful||Required|
|Step 2||Post-Secondary Medical Assistant Training||Instruction & Training in Medical Assisting & Office Management Tasks||Preferred|
|Step 3||Medical Assistant Certification||Studying for & Taking an Exam after Completion of an Accredited Medical Assistant Program or Relevant Work Experience||Required in Some States & Preferred by Employers|
What Do You Learn as a Medical Assistant Program Student?
What you learn in a medical assistant program depends on where you study. Medical assistant schools or vocational institutes typically offer instruction and hands-on training in the subject matter and skills needed for the job. Community colleges usually provide a combination of career-focused training and general education courses like English. Students learn how to perform administrative and medical tasks in the portion of their studies that is relevant to a medical assistant career.
|Administrative Training||Details||Medical Training||Details|
|Microsoft Office Suite & Other Software Programs||Microsoft Word & Excel Accounting, Email & Medical Software||Anatomy & Physiology||The Parts of Human Body Systems & How They Work|
|Electronic Recordkeeping||Maintaining Electronic Patient Medical Records||Pharmacology||How Medications Interact with the Human Body|
|Medical Billing & Coding||Documenting Patient Treatments with Medical Codes & Billing Insurance Companies||Basic Surgical Assisting||Names & Uses of Medical Equipment, How to Assist in Medical Procedures & Equipment Sanitization|
|Appointment Scheduling||Coordinating Patient & Doctor Schedules to Book Appointments||Medical Terminology||Definitions, Uses, Correct Spelling & Abbreviations for Medical Terms|
|Insurance Claim Management||Filing Insurance Claims & Advocating for Patients with Insurance Companies||Phlebotomy||How to Safely Draw Blood|
|Customer Service||Politely Answering Telephones & Greeting Patients Evaluating Customer Satisfaction||Patient Care||Taking Medical Histories & Vital Signs Providing First Aid|
|Bookkeeping||Paying Bills & Light Accounting||Clinical Externship||Supervised Training in a Medical Facility|
Where to Study the Medical Assistant Career?
Vocational schools and community colleges are two common places to study to become a medical assistant. See how the two educational paths compare.
|Characteristics||Vocational School||Community College|
|Program Length||9 to 12 Months||24 Months or Longer||Certificate or Diploma|
|Credential Awarded||Certificate or Diploma||Associate Degree||Varies|
|Study Focus||Specific to Career||Career Specific & General Education||May Be Specific to Career Only|
|Cost||Less Time in School Can Mean Lower Training Cost||Studying for Longer Can Cost More||Depends on Program Length|
How to Become a Certified Medical Assistant?
Medical assistant certification is not required but many employers prefer to hire applicants with this credential. The Certifying Board (CB) of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) grants the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential. Individuals must first meet eligibility requirements and then take and pass an exam to become a CMA.
|Exam Eligibility Requirements||Exam Content|
|Category 1||Take the Exam within the 30 Days Prior to Completing or Apply for the Exam within 12 Months of Graduating from 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).||The CMA Exam Requires an Up-to-Date & Thorough Understanding of the Delivery of Health Care.
Categories Include Administrative, Clinical & General Knowledge.
The CMA Exam Consists of 200 Multiple-Choice Questions.Candidates Are Given Four 40-Mintute Segments of Time to Take the Exam.
|Category 2||Non-Recent Graduates of ABHES or CAAHEP Accredited Medical Assisting Programs May Apply for the Exam More than 12 Months after Graduation.|
|Category 3||Those Who Have Previously Passed the CMA Certification Exam May Apply to Take It Again to Recertify.|
Four other types of medical assistant certification are available.
|National Healthcareer Association||Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)|
|National Center for Competency Testing||National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)|
|American Medical Technologists||Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)|
|National Healthcareer Association||Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)|
Some medical assistant programs schedule their students to take the American Association of Medical Assistants’ (AAMA) National Medical Assistant (CMA) Certification Exam prior to graduation. This is the case at Midwest Technical Institute, which offers 9-month medical assistant training at its campuses in Springfield, East Peoria, and Moline, Illinois. The school also offers a program in Springfield, Missouri.
Entering the Medical Assisting Industry
As an occupation growing much faster than the average for all occupations, medical assisting can not only be a promising career but also a fulfilling one helping to improve the health and wellness of the country. Employment opportunities tend to be best for those with the right credentials: medical assistant training and medical assistant certification. A 9-month medical assistant program can serve as a starting point into the medical assisting industry. If you have questions about becoming a medical assistant, the admissions staff at MTI is happy to help.