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How To Become A Medical Assistant

April 7, 2021 | Staff Writers

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There’s no better time to pursue a career in healthcare than today. The good thing is that healthcare is a dynamic field with vast career options, and not all of them demand a bachelor or associate degree.

If you want the quickest route into the healthcare field, it would be best to start with medical assisting.

With a little hands-on medical assistant training from a recognized medical assistant program, you can perform clinical and administrative roles as a certified medical assistant. 

Read on for more in-depth insights into why you should consider being a medical assistant, top medical assistant programs you can check yourself into, and of course, how to become a medical assistant. 

Reasons to Become a Medical Assistant

Do you want to become a medical assistant? Here are some of the reasons you should become one.

How to Decide to Become a Medical Assistant

  1. Research and Enroll in a Medical Assisting Program
    You will need to complete a post-secondary medical program if you want a job in medical assisting. Most employers prefer to hire a certified medical assistant with the right hands-on experience required in a medical office. 
  2. Become an Intern to Build Medical Assisting Experience
    In addition to the coursework required as a medical assistant student, an internship will help you develop practical skills, empower you and help build your medical assisting resume that sets you apart from other job seekers. 
  3. Get Certified
    If you want to stand out as a medical professional when applying for a medical field job, it would be best to pass your certification exam and get the medical assistant certification. 
  4. Take Stock of Your Skills
    Before applying for a medical assistant job, ensure that you grasp vital skills like medical terminology, patient etiquette, ethics, or using electronic health records (EHR).

What Jobs Do Medical Assistants Perform?

The medical assisting career entails playing an integral role in patient care, working closely with other medical personnel, and delivering intermediate patient care in a medical facility. A medical assistant’s responsibilities include:

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Drawing blood
  • Preparing examination rooms
  • Sterilizing equipment
  • Recording medical history
  • Performing Diagnostic tests 

Why People Seek Out Careers as Medical Assistants

  1. It is a competitive field with high employment rates.
  2. Medical assistant programs and jobs are easily accessible. 
  3. A medical assistant can work in various settings.
  4. The medical assistant career is highly stable.
  5. Schedules are predictable.
  6. It can be a stepping stone into the more fabulous health care careers like becoming a physician assistant or a medical administrative assistant.
  7. It is a fulfilling career as working close to patients is inspiring and encouraging.

Skills and Abilities Required to Become a Medical Assistant

Most individuals think that an associate degree or a medical assistant certification is enough for a medical assistant job. However, it is vital for a certified medical assistant or a clinical medical assistant to possess an extensive set of clinical and administrative know-how. But before we get to the skills, let’s first check the knowledge you need for your medical assistant job.

Knowledge Needed to Be a Medical Assistant

  1. Customer and Personal Service
    Since a medical assistant job entails delivering personalized patient care, a medical assistant should know the principles and techniques for offering customer and personal support and evaluating patient satisfaction. 
  2. Medicine
    Before stepping into a medical office, a certified medical assistant should know the necessary approaches and tools to treating human injuries, illnesses, deformities. It is vital to comprehend symptoms, alternative medications, drug properties, and preventive health measures. 
  3. English Language
    Medical assisting requires knowledge and understanding of the English language, including relevant vocabulary, spellings of words, and grammar. 
  4. Psychology
    A certified medical assistant who knows psychology will understand various personnel’s behavior and performance in a medical facility. With this knowledge, you can distinguish individual abilities and better interact with patients with behavioral disorders.
  5. Administration and Management
    Apart from patient care, a medical assistant can also function as an administrative assistant. For this reason, you’ll need knowledge of leadership techniques, resource allocation, coordination of patients and resources, and management concepts required in strategic planning. 
  6. Public Safety and Security
    A medical assistant program needs to ensure an aspiring assistant knows necessary ideas of the procedures and strategies in emergency management to promote security solutions for data, people, and the medical facility.

Skills Needed to Become a Medical Assistant

  1. Speaking
    An assistant should portray confidence and eloquence when talking and connecting with personnel in a healthcare facility. 
  2. Coordination
    It’s important to ensure smooth patient care by adjusting your actions in response to other people to minimize conflicts, delays, and wastages.
  3. Writing
    A medical assisting program ensures that prospective medical assistants can link their writing ideas while providing clarity and a logical flow of the right ideas.
  4. Service Orientation
    A service-oriented assistant should actively look for creative ways to help people. 
  5. Critical Thinking
    This entails using logic and critical viewpoints to understand the field’s realities and identifying the strengths and shortcomings of alternative solutions.
  6. Time Management
    Prioritizing tasks to manage everyone’s time is one of the most vital medical assistant skills any assistant should emphasize. 
  7. Active Listening
    It involves paying attention to details, taking time to understand other people’s sentiments, and observing turn-taking when talking.  
  8. Negotiation
    This skill involves resolving conflicts, compromising, and bringing others together. 
  9. Persuasion
    An assistant should get rid of other people’s mental roadblocks and make them take action. 
  10. Instructing
    Instructing skills entail good team management by clearly communicating information to others.

What Attributes Must Medical Assistants Possess?

  1. Integrity
    A medical assistant needs to display professionalism in their medical assistant duties. It entails being professional and discreet when handling a patient’s data or conversations around the medical office. 
  2. Appearance
    An assistant’s grooming helps make patients and their families feel comfortable in an institution’s high-stress conditions. 
  3. Competency
    A medical assistant should offer help, respond to every patient’s needs, support colleagues, be present, flexible, well organized, and innovative when problem-solving. 
  4. Courtesy
    Medical assisting requires an assistant to interact professionally and courteously with patients while emphasizing service and patient satisfaction. 
  5. Empathy
    Sicknesses can take a toll on patients physically, emotionally, and mentally. Therefore, patients can use a little compassion and empathy from an assistant. 
  6. Outgoing
    Medical jobs entail interactions with different people and require a professional like a clinical medical assistant to act as patients’ connection points. For this reason, you need to possess a charming and welcoming attitude to help them understand what’s going on around them. 

Education Requirements for Medical Assistants

Thankfully, you can get started with various high-paying ventures in medical assisting with just a high school diploma. However, since some states and employers prefer medical assistant training and certification from an accredited medical assisting program, it would be best to know the exact educational requirements you need for this career.

Type of Degree a Medical Assistant Should Have

Even if your state may not require intense training, employers prefer working with graduates from a formal medical assisting program. For this reason, it would be best to obtain a diploma in medical assisting, something that usually takes a year to complete. Once you complete the diploma program, you can sit for a certification examGenerally, this program trains basic concepts and molds a candidate into becoming a certified medical assistant. 

Apart from the diploma, an aspiring medical assistant can go the two-year route and obtain an associate’s degree in medical assisting. This degree can be a stepping stone for graduates who desire a well-rounded continuing education to advance their medical careers, leading to promotions. 

After completing the post-secondary courses, an aspiring medical assistant will have to sit for a certification exam. For this reason, it is vital to consider a medical assisting program that’s accredited by a nationally acknowledged certifying body like CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) when pursuing a career in medical assisting. 

Such bodies dictate a set of policies and a list of approved programs to ensure a registered medical assistant holds the required minimum quality standards.

Schools That Offer Medical Assistant Diploma Programs

With the requirements, you can enroll in some of these accredited programs for a medical assisting career.

  • Carrington College: This regionally-accredited institution in California has campuses in Sacramento, San Jose, Stockton, Pleasant Hill, Pomona, Citrus Heights, and San Leandro. Its program first imparts learners with hands-on responsibilities such as accounting to give students a real-world administrative experience before teaching the fundamentals of a medical assistant’s clinical roles. 

    Notably, this program offers a full-course textbook curriculum on iPad minis, provides options and sources of financial aid such as scholarships for students.
  • Lakeland Community College: This public college in Kirtland, Ohio, offers a 12-month certification in medical assisting. It fosters competent, ethical, and skilled health care personnel through courses like introduction to the U.S. healthcare system, electrocardiography, and blood collection skills. 

    The institution admits students once a year in the fall semester. The learners then wrap up with practice in affiliated clinical sites during the summer session. It also accommodates part-time students for a two-year course and offers accommodation to students with disabilities. 
  • Healing Touch Career College: Located in Hattiesburg, MS, this college offers training in seven qualifications, with students taking an average of 10 months to complete education training in anatomy, clinical electrocardiology, pathology, medical law and ethics, physiology, and administrative skills like data entry. It provides access to grants and scholarships for student education funding. 
  • Coffeyville Community College: Coffeyville is a public institution located in Kansas, offering a one-year certificate program and an optional degree program that only requires two years for completion. The program imparts administrative and clinical skills in patient care, clinical lab diagnostics, emergency preparedness, and health care professional issues. There’s an externship opportunity for students to initiate them into the real-world medical experience. 
  • Bryant & Stratton College: The Bryant & Stratton college programs are scattered across New York with campuses in areas like Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, and Albany. This accredited program allows students to participate in classroom and laboratory setting activities like computing, transcription, microscopy, communication, vision testing, and taking vital signs. 
  • South Hills Schools of Business and Technology: Located in Altoona and State College Campuses in P.A., the school’s program focuses more on administrative settings, teaching more of management, transcription, and coding. However, students also learn clinical skills like anatomy, physiology, applied psychology, and pathophysiology. The program’s final semester offers a 378-hour internship as well as a certification prep-course. 

Exams a Medical Assistant Must Pass

  1. Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
    After college, graduates must sit for the CMA certification exam recognized by AAMA (American Association of Medical Assistants). Only graduates from CAAHEP accredited programs and those who’ve completed a practicum are eligible for this exam
  2. Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
    This exam tests the level of knowledge and medical understanding among graduates and whether they are committed to maintaining their medical assistant skills. It also requires candidates to have medical assisting work experience before certification by the American Medical Technologists (AMT).
  3. National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
    The accrediting body, National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), allows candidates with at least a two-year medical assisting experience to sit for this exam to gauge their requisite capacity of the necessary skills and knowledge. 
  4. Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
    This two-hour 50 minutes exam awarded by the National Health Career Association (NHA) can be taken by candidates who’ve been in a program within the past five years or have a high school diploma and GED.
  5. Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
    A prospective administrative medical assistant can sit for this exam only if they’ve completed a course at a program within the last five years and have a post-secondary diploma or GED before being awarded a CMAA certificate by NHA.

Top Online Medical Assistant Programs and Schools 

Understandably, attending an on-campus training program can be difficult, especially for family people, professionals, and learners with other vital commitments. The good thing is that you can pursue your career from medical assistant programs that offer both online coursework and physical clinical training. So, what are some of the online medical assistant programs you can enroll in?

  1. Keiser University is among the highly-regarded online colleges that offer the USA’s best distance medical assisting programs. Found in Fort Lauderdale, FL, its program emphasizes top professional skills in various healthcare areas like clerical, administrative, and clinical roles.

    Although it is the highest-priced medical assistant program, it boasts of the highest student retention and graduation rates, with more than 90% of students securing employment almost immediately after graduation.
  2. San Francisco State University (SFSU) has an online medical assistant program that molds students into clinical medical assistants (CMA) and boasts of 24/7 tutor mentoring. The program’s distance-based coursework includes units in medical office clinical duties, patient care, patient confidentiality, recording vital signs, laboratory procedures, and medication administration. 
  3. The Minnesota State Community and Technical College distance-learning program insists on employment-ready preparation. Found in Fergus Falls, MN, this medical assistant school offers medical office training skills like billing, scheduling, documentation, and record-keeping. It also trains on administrative activities by providing leadership courses to prepare graduates for leadership responsibilities and instill the necessary skills required by doctors, medical clinics, and hospitals.
  4. North Seattle College features multi-disciplinary training of medical assistants in clerical, clinical, and administrative capacities. This medical assistant school offers classes in health care & critical thinking, front office skills, patient care, HIV/AIDS, and disease and pathology.
  5. Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, must be the most popular and top-ranked online medical assistant school in the U.S. This prestigious e-learning medical assistant school offers a medical assistant degree that aims to give learners the necessary skills to adapt to various health care settings.

    It also offers student support services in financial aids, scholarship opportunities, and student employment programs.
  6. College of Health Care Professions in Austin, TX offers e-learning students the three most vital associate programs necessary in Medical Assisting and Administration. The finest medical minds in the country instruct this curricular, opening students to exciting medical assisting opportunities in the healthcare industry. 
  7. Olney Central College offers distance-based medical assisting degrees relevant to the growing need for up-to-date and professional medical assistants. The program’s online degrees emphasize medical office setting, including Medical Office assistant, Healthcare Coding Associate, and Transcription.

    The program also focuses on a medical assistant’s administrative duties such as medical reimbursement and clinical roles like anatomy. 
  8. Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington, Minnesota, boasts of several accolades to its name. These awards include being among the Top 150 community colleges in America and the best community college in Minnesota.

    This e-learning medical assistant program offers a Medical Secretary Diploma, associate degree, and medical administrative secretary degree, emphasizing the clerical health care setting. 
  9. San Joaquin Valley College offers both diploma and associate degree programs in medical office practices, administrative skills, patient care, emergency aid, and phlebotomy theory.

    This technical college requires students to complete a 180-hour externship before graduating. The diploma program takes up to seven months, while the degree curriculum lasts for fourteen months. This program also pays students to sit for a certification exam accredited by bodies like the National Healthcare Association (NHA). 
  10. Northern Arizona University’s distance-learning program is ideal for graduates who’ve completed the associate degree in a medical assisting field. The curriculum is more clinical-oriented, emphasizing health promotion, disease control concepts, and the comprehension of the link between personal, family, communal, organizational, and societal health.

    Those who qualify for admission should have at least a 2.5 GPA in the degree program from an accredited undergraduate medical assistant school. 

Where You Can Take an Online Course to Become a Certified Medical Assistant

Sitting for a CMA certification exam is an essential step after completing a medical assistant program through the AAMA. The good thing is that students can sit for this certification exam online as long as an accrediting bureau like the CAAHEP formally recognizes the medical assisting program that mentored them. It is equally vital to consider the online school reputation before choosing it for training. Well, some of the most affordable online medical assistant certification programs include:

  • St. Augustine School of Medical Assistants: The program here is a suitable choice if you are looking forward to becoming a certified medical assistant in 6-8 weeks. It allows students to take the medical assisting course at their own pace without deadlines and time limitations. This course consists of medical terminology, disease and infection control, medical billing, processing insurance claims, and how to conduct emergency procedures. It allows students to find employment using the Medical Assistant Certificate obtained. 
  • CareerStep Online Education & Training Solutions: Students can obtain certification just four months after enrolling for training in this program. The course is purely online, with emphasis on patient advocacy, clinical care, phlebotomy, and medical coding, using interactive tools like mazes, exercises, and games. 
  • U.S. Career Institute: The online program here offers all of its courses online, including first aid, medical office procedures, health insurance info, and pharmacology. However, students have the option of purchasing individual hardcopy learning materials for the curriculum. After certification, the program offers career coaching to enable its students to secure relevant employment opportunities. 
  • Rasmussen College: Rasmussen College offers a blended course, both in-person and e-learning training. It fosters training in Math, medical law and ethics, communication, and front office management, after which candidates require an externship.
  • Clarion University of Pennsylvania: Its award-winning program offers training in allied health, all of which require online completion. The provided courses enable students to advance their health care careers and have an easy time securing employment. The program entails 30-credit hours for all the three courses it offers, like health concentration, general education, and clinical training.

How an Online Medical Assistant Program Will Help You in Your Career Goals

  1. Hastens the Path to Career Advancement
    Online medical assistant programs allow aspiring assistants to pursue a college education and launch a lucrative career in the shortest time possible. While some medical degrees take too long, earning medical assisting training from a reputable distance-learning program can be notably more concise, as fast as six months. 
  2. Higher Pay
    No doubt, most people’s career goals are to get better pay and promotions. One way to achieve this as a medical assistant is to enroll in an online medical assisting program to garner specialized expertise and more targeted training that improves your skill, increasing your income potential in the process. 
  3. Better Job Security
    The shortcoming of an entry-level position is that you are more likely to be downsized or replaced by your employer. Therefore, an online medical assistant program will allow you to stop procrastinating your career advancement because you can work and train wherever you are. By so doing, you’ll get proper training for skills and more excellent knowledge that proves to be useful to your employer. 
  4. Wider Skillset
    A career goal isn’t only about job security and more income. Advancing your medical assistant career will impart a broader skillset in you, which translates to your employer’s accolades and patient satisfaction.

    The skill advancement can also be useful, especially when you aspire to advance your career and become a nurse. For instance, during training and working as an assistant, the hands-on skills will prepare and teach you what to expect in your future career goals. 
  5. More Prestige
    Once you complete your training with online medical assistant training and earn national certification, your employment chances will increase. The reason is, the wide variety of skills and training are in-demand. 

    As a graduate and a certified medical assistant, you’ll be a part of medical personnel with skills and credentials the healthcare industry needs to provide top-notch patient care. The accompanying prestige can change an entry-level medical assistant into a must-have advanced candidate. 
  6. Broader Career Options
    Pursuing a medical assistant career in online medical training programs will expose you to a vast career potential within the medical assisting field. The programs can allow you to specialize in any medical area or take up leadership roles. 

    Better still, you can move into more challenging positions and become a healthcare administrator, manager, nurse, and more. 
  7. You Can Work in Any State
    There are five recognized certifications in medical assisting. Training with an accredited online medical assisting program and passing a certification exam in these fields will allow you to work anywhere in your nation instead of having the initial limiting one-state license. 
  8. You’ll Start Gaining Experience Before Graduating
    Most college programs require students to complete internships or externships before being awarded their certifications. These opportunities expose learners to the real-world medical setting, and if utilized, they can build a student’s resume and impart valuable experience to use throughout your career. 

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