With as little as a high school diploma or GED and some on-the-job training, you may become a medical assistant. However, most medical assistants have completed a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree program. Certification is advisable to increase your marketability.
Formal training in medical or clinical assisting prepares participants for careers in medical support services. Students learn standard office practices, billing and record keeping - some of these programs also cover basic clinical assistant skills and include a clinical assisting practicum. Graduates of certificate, diploma or degree programs are ready to begin work in medical or clinical assisting roles although, in some cases, no formal education is needed. Certified assistants may have greater job opportunities than those who hold no credentials.
|Required Education||None mandatory; most assistants hold a certificate, diploma or associate's degree in medical assisting or a related field|
|Certification||Voluntary certification through the Association of Medical Technologists and the American Association of Medical Assistants|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)||23% for medical assistants*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$33,610 for medical assistants*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Medical assistants help keep physicians' offices running smoothly by providing both administrative and clinical support. Their responsibilities may include recordkeeping, verifying appointments, answering telephones, preparing patients for meetings with medical practitioners and explaining procedures or medications to patients. Clinical assistants may take vital signs, prepare medical reports, collect lab specimens and assist physicians with examinations. State laws may allow medical assistants to perform more tasks, such as taking x-rays or giving shots.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job prospects for these professionals will be excellent in the coming years, with opportunities increasing faster than average, at a rate of 23% between 2018 and 2028. The nation's aging population and growing technology in the medical field are expected to fuel demand for medical assistants - not just in physicians' offices, but also in group practices and other healthcare settings. The median annual salary for medical assistants was $33,610 as of May 2018, according to the BLS.
Although some medical assistants have only a high school diploma and on-the-job training, many complete formal training at community or technical colleges. Training programs usually lead to certificates, diplomas or associate's degrees.
Students learn about medical recordkeeping, physiology, medical office financial management, medical terminology and clinical practices. They also obtain real-world experience by completing internships in medical offices; they may complete administrative and clinical internships or externships. Some schools offer online programs where students take classes through the Web and complete internships at local medical facilities.
Certification is not a requirement for employment as a medical assistant, but may enhance job opportunities and salaries. In addition to obtaining certification as a medical assistant, candidates can earn certification in specific specialties, such as ophthalmology or podiatry. The Association of Medical Technologists and the American Association of Medical Assistants both offer voluntary certification to qualified individuals.
While employment opportunities for medical assistants are projected to grow at a much faster rate than the national average for all occupations, professional certification can increase your chances for employment, as well as enhance your standing in the profession. Programs may be offered on campus or online; curriculum may include medical office financial management, medical terminology and medical record keeping.