How to Become a Medical Assistant
Medical Assistant Careers & Degrees

A Medical Assistant provides support to doctors and nurses by completing a range of medical as well as administrative tasks.

Medical assistants are sometimes known as MAs or CMAs, which stands for certified medical assistant.

If you are interested in health and medicine, and have a good aptitude for administrative tasks, along with excellent time management, then working as a medical assistant could be a perfect career for you.

The actual job description of a medical assistant can vary somewhat, so as far as career choices go, it’s quite flexible.

Some MAs spend all of their time behind a desk, while others may complete mostly practical work, spending their time with patients.

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Education Requirements to Become a Medical Assistant

To become a medical assistant you will need to complete either a 1 or 2 year degree which covers medical terminology, procedures, first aid, and administrative skills.

You can complete a medical assistant degree program at community college or some specialist schools.

The education that you require varies between states, so before you enroll in a particular course it’s essential that you check it qualifies you for certification where you live.

After you have completed your coursework, you will need to apply for certification.

This will usually involve sitting a state set exam.

Once you have done this you will be able to start looking for employment.

To become a medical assistant, or CMA, you will need to complete a further program and examination with the American Association of Medical Assistants.

This program is offered three times a year.

Being a CMA may offer you greater job opportunities and often a larger salary package.

Some medical assistants don’t undergo any formal training, rather they learn on the job.

However, these positions are rare and most people in the field have a formal degree qualification.

Medical Assistant Job Description

Most medical assistants work in hospitals, they may also work in clinics and day surgery centers also.

Working in health, you can expect to work on a roster, and will have a range of day, evening and weekend shifts to fill.

  • Checking patients in
  • Checking vital signs
  • Completing patient charts
  • Billing and invoicing
  • Appointment setting and diary management
  • Completing insurance forms

The job description of a medical assistant can be quite varied.

Here are some of the specialist roles a medical assistant could fill:

Clinical Medical Assistant – Depending on state law, these professionals work solely with patients.

They will put together a health profile for doctors, keep and assess charts, explain procedures to patients, and sometimes administer treatments.

Administrative Medical Assistant – These MAs handle patient paperwork, book appointments, file and archive charts, and communicate with insurance companies.

Specialist Medical Assistant – These professionals work with a health specialist such as a podiatrist or chiropractor, usually form consulting suites.

They will be trained to provide a range of assisting services to the doctor that they work with.

Medical Assistant Salary and Career Path

Most medical assistant start their career working in a hospital and providing support to doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.

While there is a lot of variety available in this role, there is not much room for advancement into other medical positions without further education.

Many medical assistants undergo further study to become nurses.

Some move on to administrative roles within health, or work in small clinics as managers.

Employment in this field is very secure, in fact it’s one of the fastest growing career sectors.

If you’re looking for a qualification that will guarantee you work, then becoming a medical assistant is a good choice.

The median wage of a medical assistant is $30,000.

The top 10% in the field earned around $40,000 a year.

There is little variance in salaries and only a small amount of room for promotion.

To achieve a higher salary, MAs usually move into other areas of health or undergo further training.

Working as a medical assistant is a good choice if you want a career in health but don’t want to spend a long time at college.

There are excellent job opportunities in this growing area.

While employment is secure, there is little room for advancement.

Many use a position as a medical assistant as a spring board into other careers within the health field.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$35,720
$25K
$29K
$35K
$40K
$48K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$29,220
Alaska$45,630
Arizona$34,090
Arkansas$30,950
California$40,120
Colorado$37,410
Connecticut$40,440
Delaware$34,770
District of Columbia$44,530
Florida$33,920
Georgia$33,300
Hawaii$39,620
Idaho$34,710
Illinois$36,500
Indiana$34,050
Iowa$35,880
Kansas$31,450
Kentucky$32,570
Louisiana$30,070
Maine$36,540
Maryland$37,320
Massachusetts$41,780
Michigan$33,760
Minnesota$41,710
Mississippi$30,690
Missouri$33,110
Montana$36,390
Nebraska$35,140
Nevada$34,860
New Hampshire$37,370
New Jersey$37,330
New Mexico$31,570
New York$38,590
North Carolina$33,380
North Dakota$37,170
Ohio$33,060
Oklahoma$31,610
Oregon$39,790
Pennsylvania$33,490
Rhode Island$37,270
South Carolina$32,470
South Dakota$31,130
Tennessee$33,610
Texas$32,550
Utah$34,090
Vermont$36,100
Virginia$36,510
Washington$43,760
West Virginia$28,710
Wisconsin$37,250
Wyoming$34,190
Guam$26,270
Puerto Rico$23,340
Virgin Islands$31,940

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $45,630.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $45,630
District of Columbia - $44,530
Washington - $43,760
Massachusetts - $41,780
Minnesota - $41,710
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Medical Assistants, OCC Code 31-9092, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a medical assistant do?

Medical assistants perform a variety of administrative and clinical duties in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

Their job responsibilities include recording patient’s history, measuring the blood pressure and other vital signs, helping physicians during patients examinations, scheduling appointments and preparing samples for lab tests.

Depending on the state, medical assistants may also be allowed to give injections or medications under the supervision of a physician.

The exact tasks a medical assistant has to fulfill depend on the place of employment.

As a medical assistant, you will need a variety of skills, including communication skills, technical skills, and attention to detail.

QuestionHow much does a medical assistant make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for medical assistants was $33,610 as of May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors, including experience, education, and place of employment.

As a medical assistant, you can make anywhere between less than $25,000 and more than $45,000 a year.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a medical assistant?

Medical assistants usually hold a post-secondary diploma or certificate in medical assisting.

However, you may also join this profession with a high school diploma and learn through on-the-job-training.

Medical assistant programs are offered by many trade and vocational schools.

Typically these programs cost somewhere between $1,000-$4,000 and may be completed in a few weeks or several months.

Two-year associate’s degree programs are also available at some colleges and range from $500 to more than $5,000 a year.

QuestionWhat is the demand for medical assistants?

The numbers published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that this profession is expected to grow fast in the next decade.

Employment for medical assistants is projected to grow 23 percent from 2018 to 2028.

This growth is explained in part by the fact that the aging baby-boom generation will increase the demand for medical services and healthcare providers will need to hire more medical assistants to help physicians with clinical and administrative tasks.

Those who hold professional certification are expected to have better job prospects than the rest.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a medical assistant?

The answer to this question varies depending on the educational path you choose to pursue.

You can join this profession right after finishing high school and learn through on-the-job training but, if you want to have better job prospects, you should first finish a post-secondary training program at a vocational school, technical school, or community college.

Program duration varies depending on the type of program you choose.

For example, diploma programs can be completed in 2-3 months, while associate’s degree programs are usually 2 years long.

Although most states don’t require medical assistants to be certified, some employers may prefer candidates who hold professional certification.

Five different types of certifications for medical assistants are offered by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

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