Medical assistants, or medical office assistants, are responsible for carrying out administrative and/or clerical tasks which keep the day-to-day processes in a health care setting operating smoothly. The settings they work in can be doctors' offices, medical centers, clinics, or other health care venues.
Medical Assistant Schools
You can find medical assisting training programs at:
- Junior colleges
- Vocational schools
- Community colleges
Most medical assistants enter training programs with a high school diploma. Medical assistant training programs typically last one to two years. While one year programs may grant you a certificate or diploma, two year programs usually award associate's degrees. If you are especially ambitious, you might decide to get certified by nationally recognized medical assistant organizations such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or the Association of Medical Technologists (AMT). While national certification may not be mandatory for employment, it can lead to better pay and increased job opportunities.
Although some medical assistants are trained on the job, most employers prefer formal training of some type. Here are some of the medical assistant education requirements:
- A high-school diploma or GED equivalency is typically required.
- A one-year certificate/diploma or two-year associate degree is preferred, but not typically required.
Medical Assistant Training and Courses
Postsecondary programs often include an internship that provides practical experience in a physician's office, hospital or some other health care facility. Typical medical assisting programs may include courses in:
- Allied Health Laws
- Basic Pharmacology
- Body Systems
- Clinical Procedures
- Computer Skills
- Health Information Confidentiality / HIPAA
- Medical Coding and Claims
- Medical Information Management and Records Storage
- Medical Terminology
- Patient Assessment
There are literally hundreds of medical assisting programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education School (ABHES). Accreditation by one of these associations usually requires that the curriculum provide a sufficient amount of classroom, lecture, and laboratory time.
Medical Assistant Certification and Licensing
Certification is not mandatory for a medical assistant, but is definitely a plus that can look good to employers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that some jobs have a preference to hire workers who are either experienced or possess a certification. There are two credentials to choose from, both of which are widely recognized and highly valued:
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) – This designation is conferred by the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Individuals who have graduated from an accredited medical assisting program are eligible for this certification, which is earned by passing a test.
- Medical Assistant (RMA) – This is another popular and valuable certification, and it’s conferred by the American Technologists (AMT) agency.
Resources for Medical Assistants
- American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
- American Medical Technologists (AMT)
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
- American Academy of Medical Administrators
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- American Medical Association (AMA)
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#00-0000
- Medical Assistants, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm