How To Become A Medical Assistant

Becoming a medical assistant is pretty straightforward.

Those who pursue careers as medical assistants obtain jobs relatively quickly compared to other healthcare occupations.

Medical assistants work in healthcare centers like hospitals, clinics, and physician offices.

These specialists provide administrative and clinical support to physicians, nurse practitioners, and other professionals.

As a result, they can spend more time on vital tasks necessary to their position.

Medical assistants receive training in direct patient care and clerical work.

For instance, they measure and record patient vital signs, collect test samples, draw blood, and administer medication.

They also prepare, sterilize, manage medical devices/instruments, and sometimes administer injections.

In addition to working directly with patients, medical assistants may also handle some of the clerical duties.

For example, they answer phone calls, schedule appointments, fill out paperwork and insurance forms, enter patient data into the computer system, call in prescriptions, and educate patients to improve their medical condition/lifestyle.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s discuss how to become a medical assistant.

Educational Foundation

Those who wish to become medical assistants must meet numerous educational requirements.

As a result, the time needed to complete the MA program and get certified depends on your academic goals.

Most schools that offer a medical assistant program will provide a one-year or two-year program.

The 1-year program allows medical assistant students to earn a certificate/diploma to begin working promptly.

However, a one-year certificate/diploma may restrict a medical assistant’s career opportunities.

Students who choose to participate in a 2-year program may earn an associate’s degree as a medical assistant.

The two-year degree allows medical assistants to earn a higher salary and has more career diversity.

Finding a school that offers a medical assistant a bachelor’s degree is extremely rare.

Nevertheless, better education enables medical assistants to participate in advanced career roles and supervising positions.

Fast Track Education

Some schools allow students with an associate’s degree in a social science field to earn a medical assistant degree more quickly.

Students may earn their degrees fast since they don’t need to complete specific coursework.

As previously mentioned, students can choose from a certificate, diploma, or associate’s program depending on their goals.

However, many students pursue entry-level positions as medical assistants after receiving their certificates.

From there, they can continue to expand their education to obtain an associate’s degree while working and gaining experience.

Academic Flexibility and Online Opportunities

Many medical assistant programs offer flexible hours and schedules for students interested in the program.

They also provide online coursework to accommodate the participating individuals in the program.

During the medical program, students learn about various topics related to medical assistant work.

It includes anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, first aid, and patient care, other related topics.

It enables medical assistant students to prepare adequately for their roles within the healthcare field.

Some medical programs also include clinical training and an internship program.

It allows them to acquire the necessary experience, which helps qualify them for work and land a job after graduation.


After completing the program, students may take a certification exam to become certified medical assistants.

Obtaining certification may not be necessary to get a job as a medical assistant.

However, some physician offices and healthcare centers may require certification.

Certification provides medical assistants more opportunities because it qualifies their training and experience.

Medical assistants must also renew their certificates yearly to maintain their certification.

Medical assistants can sign up for and take the certification program every few months.

At the time of writing, the medical assistant program occurs three times per year.

Some individuals may pursue their certification before employment to simplify the hiring process.

Others may take the certification to enter the workforce and secure a job quickly after getting hired.

If you’d like to learn more about the certification exam, you can do so here at the American Association of Medical Assistants.

How to Become a Certified Medical Assistant

Most individuals can become certified medical assistants within a few months to two years.

Nevertheless, students must receive the proper education and training to operate effectively in this discipline.

The following section provides the essential steps aspiring certified medical assistants complete to enter this profession. 


1. Obtain a GED, Diploma, or Equivalent

To become a medical assistant, you must first acquire a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent.

Most programs will not allow students to join unless they have completed their education foundation.

After attaining the required schooling, you must decide whether to earn a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree.

2. Determine Your Academic Goals

Depending on the education, the length of the medical assistant program will vary from a few months to two years.

Each advancement in education offers more opportunities for career progression, better pay, and more diverse responsibilities.

Once you’ve decided on your academic goals, you’ll need to apply to join an accredited medical assistant program.

3. Join an Accredited Medical Assistant Program

Numerous training institutions, universities, and vocational schools offer medical assistant programs.

Tuition costs range from $1,200 to $25,00o or more depending on the school and your academic goals.

Students may participate in in-person or online schooling to earn their certification.

However, universities that provide internships or labs may require students to show up in person at specific times.

During the program, students spend several months to two years learning how to be competent and effective medical assistants.

4. Finish an Internship

Numerous medical assistant programs require/recommend students to take an internship.

Internship programs enable medical assistant students to gain valuable hands-on experience.

In addition to gaining experience, internships look excellent on a resume enabling some students to get hired more quickly.

5. Get Certified

The final step of the process is to get certified as a medical assistant.

The American Association of Medical Assistants offers the Certified Medical Assistant credential (CMA (AAMA).

This exam tests the competencies of medical assistants to ensure they have the proper education and training to succeed.

Certification benefits medical assistants who want to demonstrate their skills and dedication to employers.

It also provides better opportunities for employment, increased pay, and career advancement. 

How to Become a Medical Assistant:

  1. Acquire a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent
  2. Decide whether you want a MA diploma or a certificate
  3. Complete an accredited medical assistant program
  4. Finish an internship or externship
  5. Get Certified

Medical Assistant Overview

A medical assistant (MA) is a “certified/non-certified” non-licensed position in medical care.

Those who work in this occupation perform various clinical and administrative work.

It enables them to provide additional support to physicians, clinicians, registered nurses, and other professionals.

Medical assistants perform various duties and tasks throughout the day.

For instance, they track and report patient vitals, update charts, administer injections (in certain states), dispense medications, perform STAT exams,

They also operate essential medical equipment, handle and maintain paper and electronic medical records, and collect blood, urine, and tissue samples for lab testing.

Finally, medical assistants collect additional patient data and prepare medical instruments.

Most tasks performed by medical assistants occur under the supervision of a licensed medical professional or healthcare expert.

Medical Assistant Clinical Duties:

  • Explain treatment procedures
  • Assist the physician during patient examinations
  • Measure, monitor, and record patient vitals
  • Administer medication
  • Draw blood
  • Collect bodily fluid samples such as urine and saliva
  • Remove sutures and change dressings
  • Take electrocardiograms
  • Prepare and handle medical equipment and tools

Medical assistants also perform a variety of administrative duties.

Medical Assistant Administrative Duties:

  • Operate and manage clinical computer programs/applications
  • Answer phone calls
  • Greet patients
  • Schedule medical appointments
  • Update and maintain patient medical records
  • Manage coding and billing
  • Assist patients with medical forms
  • Handle and perform bookkeeping

Medical assistants need excellent technical knowledge of their work tasks and responsibilities.

They must also be able to accurately and efficiently handle, modify and add patient data to the office computers.

Medical assistants perform various roles like phone operator, desk clerk, billing administrator, medical record keeper, screening assistant, and medical coordinator.

They also work closely with a physician to monitor patient vitals and collect samples.

Healthcare facilities hiring medical assistants generally look for self-motivated, outgoing, and well-organized individuals.

Unlike other healthcare fields, medical assistants can generally begin working with little more than a high school diploma.

Many facilities offer on-the-job training.

However, basic computer literacy, telephone skills, adequate typing ability, and excellent record-keeping are essential.

Developing personal communication skills can also dramatically improve one’s ability to obtain a job in this profession.

With that said, there are certification programs people can pursue to obtain medical assistant more suitable jobs.

Certification programs typically last 1 – 2 years, allowing individuals to earn an associate degree as a medical assistant.

It enables medical assistants to perform more complex job tasks and potentially earn a higher income.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Medical Assistant?

It takes approximately 1 – 2 years to become a medical assistant for those pursuing certification or a diploma.

However, some individuals become medical assistants without formal education if an employer is willing to train them.

Acquiring a medical assistant certification or a degree benefits those interested in this profession.

Medical assistants with a certificate/degree demonstrate their competency, skills, and dedication to the profession.

As a result, they earn more money and obtain work faster than those without an academic background.

Medical assistants with formal education also have better career opportunities at more prestigious healthcare institutions.

For instance, hospitals or large healthcare centers may prefer/require medical assistants to have a certificate/degree.

It ensures they’ll perform their duties adequately and limits the risks of the institutions hiring them.

Is Becoming a Medical Assistant Hard?

Becoming a medical assistant is too hard for those who develop an excellent study routine and devote themselves to learning.

Nevertheless, students must work effectively and dedicate time to learning to receive their certification/degree.

Numerous employers also offer on-the-job training for those with/without formal education.

However, it’s essential to determine whether they’ll provide sufficient training to perform your assigned duties effectively.

What Do Medical Assistants Learn in School?

Medical assistants learn various skills, practices, and procedures in school to prepare them for their support roles.

It includes first aid/CPR, infection control, medical terminology, patient communication, and principles of pharmacology.

They also learn administrative practices/procedures, standards, laws and regulations, and medical equipment utilization.

Besides that, students may learn to take vital signs, collect blood and specimen samples and perform other clerical duties.

What Qualifications do Medical Assistant Students Need?

To qualify to participate in the medical assistant program, students must first have a GED, diploma, or equivalent.

Most medical assistant programs will not accept students who do not have a prior academic foundation.

In addition, medical assistant students must be of legal age and pass a background and drug test to join a program.

Do you Need to Be Certified to be a Medical Assistant?

Obtaining a medical assistant certification or diploma is highly beneficial for those who want to specialize in this career.

However, most states do not require medical assistants to be certified or licensed.

Medical assistants may learn to perform their duties through training from an employer without formal education.

Nonetheless, careers for non-certified medical assistants may be more restricted than those with formal education.

Are There Online Medical Assistant Programs?

Yes, numerous online medical assistant programs for those who want to become certified.

 Well-known institutions like Herzing Univerisity, Purdue, San Franciso State University, and Texas State offer online programs.

In addition, students may obtain certification through Penn Foster and the U.S. Career Institute.

Other educational organizations also provide online programs for medical assistant certification.

However, you’ll need to research these organizations to ensure you receive adequate training and certification.

How Much Does Medical Assistant Training Cost?

The tuition cost for medical assistant programs ranges from $5,000 to $25,000 or more for most accredited programs.

Tuition costs vary depending on the student’s academic goals (i.e., certificate or diploma) and the institution’s reputation.

Some online medical assistant programs offer tuition as low as $1,200.

However, it would be best to determine the legitimacy of training institutions, colleges, and vocational schools programs you do not recognize.

If you pursue an academic route, ensure you receive proper education, certification, or an associate’s degree.

Is There a Medical Assistant Bachelor Degree?

Most training institutions, colleges, and vocational schools do not offer a medical assistant bachelor’s degree.

However, medical assistants looking to further their careers may pivot their education to different healthcare disciplines.

For instance, medical assistants with an associate’s degree may earn a bachelor’s in healthcare administration.

It enables them to handle more administrative duties, earns higher pay, and accept careers in different healthcare facilities.

Unfortunately, there is no MA to RN programs for medical assistants who want to become registered nurses.

Still, some medical assistants pursue becoming registered nurses because it opens up countless career opportunities.

Registered nurses specialize in over 100 different occupations inside and outside direct care.

It includes bedside care, legal consulting, medical writing, research, education, travel nursing, and other disciplines.

Accordingly, medical assistants who become registered nurses have a lot more career flexibility.

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