So, you want to be a medical assistant. Maybe it’s because the schooling is fairly quick. Maybe it’s because you love caring for other people. Either way, the medical assistant business isn’t going anywhere.
This exciting, and at times, demanding profession employs upwards of 646,320 people. Are you prepared to perform under a doctor’s orders? Can you stay organized and alert when it counts?
Then this may be the job for you. And if you’ve decided that it is, you’re in luck. Medical assistants make an average of $16 an hour and don’t need decades of schooling. In fact, some programs can be as little as 9-12 months long.
If you’re wondering how to become a medical assistant, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the steps you need to take before embarking on this respectable career path.
1. Get a High School Diploma or GED
First things first. To become a medical assistant, you’ll need to attend a medical assistant school. Before you can get considered for that, you’ll need to have either your high school diploma or GED.
2. Apply for a Medical Assistant School
This is the big step.
Applying for a medical assistant school will be the foundation for your career. Where should you apply? Local community colleges offer quality programs at a lesser rate than universities. But if this isn’t an issue, go for the best.
There are one of two different accreditations your school must have. To be a professional program, they must have one of these:
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (or CAAHEP), or
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (or ABHES)
These practices exist to ensure that schools are advancing the quality of healthcare education.
Once you decide on the right school for you, the next step is choosing which route to take. There are two main ways you can go: the 9-12 month certification, or the 2-year degree.
This program allows the student to receive on-the-job training. The student will learn the ins and outs of the profession. This ranges from the clinical to the patient contact.
This program generally lasts about 9-12 months. Although it offers necessary education, some would argue that it’s not as in-depth as an AA. Most hospitals prefer to see a degree, although that’s not always the case.
The AA route gives you all the education you need from a certification program and then some. Within these two years, you’ll explore the ins and outs of the MA profession. You’ll also receive a more thorough general education.
Both of these routes of schooling cover a broad range of topics:
- Scheduling appointments
- Interacting with patients
- Preparing and cleaning examination rooms
- Taking and recording vital signs
- Adding relevant information to the patient’s chart
- Anatomy and physiology
- Relaying accurate information to the doctor, pharmacist, patient, etc.
- Answering and making phone calls
- Keeping an organized calendar
If you’re a compassionate, dedicated caretaker, view here how to get your school search going. Or, keep reading!
3. Optional: Get a Certification
Read: optional, but recommended.
Students who finish a medical assistant program will be for the AAMA, or American Association of Medical Assistant. This is commonly referred to as the CMA. A Certified Medical Assistant has credentials through a certified board.
Passing the CMA exam is key to achieving a better job at a better hospital, clinic, or dentist’s office. This almost always means higher pay, too.
You can be eligible to take the CMA exam within thirty days of completing your school. You’re able to take the exam up to 12 months after graduating. The CMA exam consists of 200 questions, administered in four 40-minute sections.
The sooner you take the exam, the fresher your MA schooling will be in your head. A little extra studying could mean a boost in your salary for the rest of your life.
4. Finish an Externship
All your schooling has prepared you for this moment.
Externships are hands-on training programs that allow you to shadow people. They will be established in the profession you’re learning to join. This means that the classroom is now a hospital or clinic.
Your school has many resources for choosing the best externship. They have the ability to set you up with one in your area.
There can be many settings for a medical assistant externship. You can discuss your specific interests, if you have any, or try whatever is available and see how you fit in.
Use this as an opportunity to learn everything you can. Books will teach you a lot. But the chaos of life from the intimate perspective of a medical assistant can’t be taught out of a book.
Ask questions. Arrive early. Stay late. Make connections with nurses, doctors, pharmacists, fellow med assistants.
Now’s your chance to see what the medical assistant life will be on a daily basis.
Did You Learn How to Become a Medical Assistant?
Did you learn that it’s not as hard as you thought it was?
You could be on the path to becoming a medical assistant this year. All it takes is some diligent studying, compassionate care, and a thorough externship.
If you think medical assisting might be right for you – but you’re fearful of a 2-year commitment – try getting an MA certification first. If you like it, take your dedication to the next level. If you don’t, you haven’t wasted years of your life on a career you don’t like.
But if you’ve read this far, we think you’ll like it. And the world needs more MAs who care about the world and good company culture.
Want further information on how to become a medical assistant? Need advice on being the best you can be at work? Check out our business blog.