Becoming a Medical Assistant Online: How-To Guide

Learn how to become a medical assistant. Research the job description and education and licensing requirements and find out how to begin a career in medical assisting.

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Should I Become a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants perform a combination of administrative and clinical duties in health care settings. Aspiring medical assistants may enroll in an academic program that provides them with the skills necessary for the field. These programs typically result in either a certificate or associate's degree and are commonly offered online.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma; postsecondary education often preferred
Training On-the-job training is common
Licensure and Certification Certification is not required, but many employers find it desirable
Key Skills Analytical skills, detail oriented, interpersonal skills, technical skills
Salary (2014) $29,960 is the median salary

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

All medical assistants should have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. Individuals interested in pursuing a career as a medical assistant should earn a high school diploma with coursework in biology, chemistry, and anatomy.

Step 2: Complete On-the-Job Training

Medical assistants can learn about the job's tasks and responsibilities through on-the-job training. New medical assistants can learn these skills from other, more experienced medical assistants or from doctors. Training may focus on technical knowledge, such as developing a medical vocabulary, as well as more day-to-day duties, such as effective relationship management.

Step 3: Earn a Certificate or Degree

While postsecondary training isn't necessarily required for medical assistants, it may be preferred by employers. Certificate programs may be completed in as little as a few months, while associate's degree programs can take up to two years. Options include fully online programs, as well as hybrid programs that combine online learning with in-person, clinical experiences.

For certification purposes, students should look for online programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Students enrolled in accredited medical assistant certificate programs typically become proficient in performing fundamental procedures, collecting specimens, administering diagnostic tests and caring for patients.

Step 4: Get Certified

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that although certification is not required for medical assistants, employers typically prefer to hire certified workers. Medical assistant certification can be obtained by completing an accredited medical assistant program and passing a certification exam administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants. Prospective medical assistants may apply to take the certification exam online, as well as locate study materials, but the exam must be taken in person at an approved site.

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