The demand for medical assistants is on the rise. This isn’t surprising, as they play an integral role in the healthcare industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a robust surge in the demand for medical assistants at a growth rate of 18% between 2020 and 2030. This number is more than twice the national average.
The Bureau attributed the surge to the following:
- Technological advancement
- Increase in the number of physicians’ offices and outpatient care facilities.
- An increase in the number of elderly Americans who need medical treatment.
Knowing what to do or how to begin can take time and effort for those willing to pursue a career in this advantageous field. You don’t have to worry if you find yourself in these shoes. Below, we have prepared a detailed guide regarding everything you need to know to become a medical assistant.
Who is a Medical Assistant?
A medical assistant is an allied health professional who helps physicians and other health professionals with clinical and administrative duties. A medical assistant’s roles vary depending on the healthcare agency and state.
Some general clinical roles include taking patients’ vital signs, assisting physicians during a medical examination, preparing and explaining medical procedures to patients, administering drugs and giving injections if state laws allow, and removing sutures.
Administrative tasks include scheduling appointments, calling patients for follow-up appointments, acting as a liaison between the physician and patient, updating medical records, and filing out insurance forms.
How to Become a Medical Assistant?
To become a medical assistant, you must complete a formal training program from any accredited institution. The duration of these programs ranges from 6 months to 2 years. Equipped with clinical and administrative training and expertise, aspiring medical assistant can begin their career in one specialized area or another, depending on the required duties.
Steps to Become a Medical Assistant
1. Get Formal Education
Aspiring medical assistants can kick start their career with just a high school diploma or GED. However, according to BLS reports, most medical assistants have completed post-secondary training programs. Most of these programs are offered at community colleges, and courses typically include medical assisting skills, medical terminology, diet and nutrition, and administrative office procedures.
In choosing a medical assisting program, an aspiring medical assistant must consider whether the programs are accredited by the Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education School (ABHES). It is also important to consider costs and online/residential options.
2. Carry Out Internship/Externship:
A Medical assistant must boost their expertise with vital on-hand experience, especially towards the end of the medical assisting program. This will help them develop and practice the skills taught during the program.
Also, under supervision, students learn and practice clinical tasks such as injecting patients, administering drugs, and drawing blood.
3. Get Professional Certification
Although certification is not required for medical assistants to kickstart their careers, many employers hire medical assistants with credentials from accredited certifying bodies. To an employer, a medical assistant with professional certification shows the medical assistant’s expertise, skills, credibility, and dedication to the field. It can also increase medical assistants’ salary rates and earn more and better job opportunities. A medical assistant can opt for certification from any certifying body, such as a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) or Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA).
4. Keep Renewing Certification:
Medical assistants must also keep renewing their certifications to ensure they remain valid. Different certifying bodies have other renewal processes and requirements for their certificates. While some may take two or three years before renewal is necessary, some certificates must be renewed annually.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Medical Assistant?
Depending on the choice of program, medical assistant training programs vary from one another in terms of length and duration. An aspiring medical assistant may become one within a year or two, depending on whether they pursue certification, hands-onhands-ons training, or through associate degree accredited programs.
Benefits of Being a Medical Assistant
The role of medical assistants is vital to the healthcare industry as they handle clinical and administrative duties to support other healthcare professionals. With the high demands placed on medical assistants, there is no doubt that the attached importance has made medical assisting a prospective and attractive career. So, what are the benefits of being a medical assistant?
Below are just a few examples.
- Job Security: The high demand for medical assistants results in stability for those already on the job. It also makes things appealing for the coming years, as the baby boomer generation becomes old and needs healthcare from physicians who will, in turn, have to employ medical assistants to help with the care.
- Career advancement/ job opportunities: When a medical assistant gets certified, it boosts their career and helps provide more job opportunities. As medical assistants advance in their careers through professional certification and increase their skills, the opportunity to transition into other healthcare professions continues to arise frequently.
- Opportunity to specialize: Medical assistants have a veritable chance for specialization. A medical assistant, for example, may opt for a career in clinical specialties such as oncology, dermatology, cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, obstetrics, or pediatrics.
- Flexible educational background Requirements - Unlike other healthcare professions that may take years of education and training, medical assistants typically require little to no formal education to kick-start their careers. They can either start their career with a high school diploma/GED and get hands-on training experience or complete a medical assisting program or associate degree. It usually takes about a year to complete a medical assisting program. And just two years to complete an associate degree.