To be a certified medical assistant the first step is to complete a certificate or associate's degree from an accredited medical assisting program. The next step is to complete a practicum. Once the postsecondary training and practicum are complete it is necessary to take a certification exam; certified medical assistants are required to renew their certification every five years.
Certified medical assistants perform a variety of duties in medical offices, from filing insurance claims to taking a patient's vital signs. In the quickly growing field of certified medical assisting, job competition can be strong. Certification is not required to be a medical assistant, but most employers prefer to hire applicants with this credential.
|Required Education||Certificate or associate's degree|
|Certification|| Offered through professional organizations
Certification in basic life support may be required
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||23% for all medical assistants|
|Mean Annual Salary (2015)*||$31,910 for all medical assistants|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Certified Medical Assistant Job Duties
Certified medical assistant duties vary from office to office; generally, these non-licensed professionals perform a variety of administrative and clinical tasks under the direction of an office manager or physician. Administrative duties can include answering telephones, greeting patients, scheduling appointments, filing insurance paperwork and updating medical records.
In addition, certified medical assistants may be required to perform clinical work, such as taking medical histories, recording vital signs or preparing patients for exams. Other clinical tasks might include collecting and preparing lab specimens, performing basic lab tests and sterilizing medical equipment.
Some medical assistants work one-on-one with patients while drawing blood, administering medications, advising on treatment plans, prescribing a specialized diet, removing sutures or changing dressings. Other duties might include cleaning both waiting and examination rooms or ordering supplies and equipment for the medical office.
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Medical assistants must have certification in the field. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) requires candidates for certification to have completed an accredited medical assisting program. Most such programs run two years and result in an associate's degree; community and junior colleges as well as vocational schools offer them. Some programs last one year and result in a certificate. The AAMA also requires that candidates complete an unpaid work experience program called a practicum, and then they must pass an exam. Recertification is required every five years.
Certification for medical assisting can also be obtained through American Medical Technologists (AMT), which has basically the same requirements of AAMA certification but does not require passage of an exam if the candidate has been working in the field of medical assisting for three of the past five years or if they have previously passed a certification exam.
In addition to medical assisting certification, some jobs require applicants to be certified in basic life support, which trains individuals to respond to life-threatening situations like heart attacks, choking or drowning.
Salary Info and Career Outlook
Medical assistants earned a mean annual salary of $31,910 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment opportunities for medical assistants are expected to be good in the coming years; the BLS anticipated a 23% increase in employment from 2014-2024, which is significantly faster than the average for all careers.
Certified medical assistants perform administrative tasks, such as answering phones, completing paperwork, scheduling appointments and processing health insurance claims. They may also be required to take a patient history, prepare patients for treatment, and take a patient's vital signs prior to treatment. In some cases, they draw blood, administer medications or counsel patients about their medical care.