How to Become a Medical Assistant in 3 Easy Steps + Top Programs

Medical assistants are valuable members of a medical team.

Their duties vary based on their employer, skills, and the state they work in.

Generally, they may take vital signs, collect and prepare lab samples, schedule appointments, and get patient’s histories.

To become a medical assistant, you’ll want to start with medical assistant training.

Then, you can get your certification and begin looking for employment.

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3 Steps to Become a Medical Assistant

It’s important to understand that most states don’t have formal licensing requirements for medical assistants.

However, education and certification will help you find a job quickly.

It also ensures that you know how to do your job correctly.

1. Meet the Necessary Prerequisites

Your journey starts with a high school diploma or equivalent.

Most states require you to have a diploma, and you won’t be able to get medical assistant training without one.

You’ll also need to be at least 18 years old and have a felony-free background.

You may need to take a drug test as well.

Most schools will require you to be up to date on vaccinations, and you may need negative Hepatitis B and tuberculosis tests as well.

Even if your school doesn’t require these things, your employer probably will.

2. Get Medical Assistant Training

You can complete a medical assistant training program in less than one year.

Some schools offer an associate’s degree, which takes about 2 years to complete.

Which program is right for you will depend on your current and future goals.

A certificate or diploma program allows you to enter the workforce quickly.

However, if you plan to continue your education after becoming a medical assistant, an associate’s degree may be the better choice.

Most programs will include clinical experience as well as classroom instruction.

This allows you to gain experience working as a medical assistant with supervision.

3. Get Your Certification

There are seven different medical assistant certifications.

Some are designed to be taken as soon as you complete a medical assistant training program, and others require you to have a few years of work experience.

Most medical assistant programs will prepare you for one specific certification.

This means that your training program is designed to teach you everything you need to know to get that certification.

You may choose to get other certifications as well, but you may have a tougher time passing the exam.

Licensing Requirements to Become a Medical Assistant

Most states don’t require you to be licensed or have a certification to be a medical assistant.

Idaho, Washington, Connecticut, and New Jersey do require you to be certified before working in their state.

Even if your state doesn’t require certification, it’s difficult to find a job without being certified.

74% of medical assistants have some type of certification, so it can be considered the industry standard.

In addition to standard certifications, you can choose to become certified in a specialty area, including chiropractics, geriatric, or orthopedics.

The costs of being certified as a medical assistant vary between certifications.

American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)

The AAMA offers a Certified Medical Assistant, or CMA, certification.

To qualify, you’ll need to be a graduate of a medical assistant training program recognized by the AMMA.

The test has 200 multiple-choice questions and is given in 4 segments of 40 minutes.

You will need to pay a fee of $125, or $150, depending on your AAMA membership.

American Medical Certification Association

The American Medical Certification Association offers two entry-level medical assistant certifications.

The standard certification is the Medical Assistant Certification or MAC.

This certification includes aspects of clinical care and administrative duties.

The exam has 100 multiple-choice questions, and you’ll have two hours to complete it.

You can qualify for the exam by graduating from a medical assistant program or having at least 5 years of clinical experience as a medical assistant.

The exam costs $119 and includes study materials.

The Clinical Medical Assistant Certification (CMAC), focuses solely on the clinical side of medical assisting.

National Healthcareer Association (NHA)

The National Healthcareer Association, or NHA, also offers two entry-level medical assistant certifications.

To qualify for the test, you’ll need to complete a medical assistant training program, or have several years of on-the-job experience.

The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, or CMA, certification focuses on the clinical side of medical assisting.

This exam costs $155.

The Medical Administrative Assistant, or CMAA, focuses on administrative medical assisting.

This exam costs $117.

You can also choose to purchase study materials for either exam on the NHA website.

You can use our free medical assistant practice test to make sure you are ready for the actual test.

Online Training Programs for Medical Assistants

Medical assistant programs can vary from a few months for a certificate to a few years for an associate degree.

Most online programs for medical assistants allow you to complete the work on your own time.

U.S. Career InstituteU.S. Career Institute 

U.S. Career Institute offers a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) program.

This program focuses on the clinical duties of medical assisting.

The program is self-paced and typically takes 4-7 months.

There’s a total of 27 lessons and 27 quizzes.

You can expect to spend 500 hours completing the program.

The curriculum is broken down into four sections.

These are Introduction to the World of Medical Assisting, Fundamental Medical Assisting Skills 1 and 2, and Clinical Skills and Practicum.

Once you’ve completed the program, you are eligible to take the CCMA exam from the National Healthcareer Association, or NHA.

Penn FosterPenn Foster

Penn Foster offers a career diploma in Medical Assisting.

During the program, you’ll learn Medical Billing and Health Insurance, Pathology and Pharmacology, Body Systems and Medical Terminology, and Clinical Procedures Theory.

The course also includes an externship, which allows you to gain real-world training before you graduate.

The program can be completed in 9-15 months and is self-paced.

Completing the program will prepare you to take one of several certifications, including the American Medical Technologists (AMT) Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Certification, The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), and, The Clinical Medical Assistant Certification (CMAC) offered by the American Medical Certification Association (AMCA).

The College of Healthcare Professionals The College of Healthcare Professionals 

The College of Healthcare Professionals, or CHCP, offers a Medical Assistant Certificate program.

The program can be completed in 48 weeks or less.

During the program, you’ll learn both the clinical and administrative aspects of medical assisting.

Specific skills you will learn include EKGs, injections, phlebotomy, vital sign recording, medical law and ethics, and insurance, billing, and managing medical records.

You’ll also complete a 150-hour externship as part of the program.

Once you’ve completed the program, you are prepared to take the National Association of Healthcare Professionals Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA) exam.

The cost of this exam is included in your tuition.

Phlebotomy Career Training Phlebotomy Career Training 

Phlebotomy Career Training offers a CCMA Medical Assistant Course.

The program can be completed in 6 weeks, but you’ll have 6 months to finish the program, so you can work at your own pace.

Once you’ve completed the program, you can take a certification exam through the AMCA, NCCT, and NHA.

The cost of the exam is included in your tuition.

Medical Assistant Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants earn a median wage of $38,270.

This means that half of all medical assistants make less than this, and half earn more.

10% of medical assistants earn less than $30,390, while the top 10% earn more than $51,710.

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