How to Become a Medical Assistant

This job has consistently been one of the top 10 that you can start right out of high school.

How to Become a Medical Assistant

There's a high demand for medical assistants.

Curious about how to become a medical assistant? It’s a smart idea: This career path has consistently been one of the top 10 best jobs in America that you can start right out of high school. Medical assistants are a main source of support for doctors, physician assistants, and other health care professionals, so you’re in on the action.

As you come to love this rewarding job, you can then advance your career by earning a two-year degree while working. Medical assistants with CCMA (Certified Clinical Medical Assistant) credentials find top jobs and salaries.

And now for some more good news. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects this field will grow by an astounding 19%, creating more than 725,000 new medical assistant jobs in the next 10 years.

What Is a Medical Assistant?

As a medical assistant, you are the engine of a medical practice or hospital floor. You will learn medical terms and procedures, assist patients and doctors, and keep things running smoothly.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Your job will include a variety of both clinical and administrative tasks. On average, a medical assistant interacts with 16 patients per day. You will record their medical histories, take their blood pressure and temperature, and help schedule appointments, surgeries, and procedures.

On the administrative side, you will keep the doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital floor organized by coding and keeping records organized, keeping an inventory, and ordering supplies, and making sure everyone is following medical policies and procedures.

Other responsibilities of a medical assistant can include:

  • Filling out insurance forms
  • Answering telephones and scheduling patient appointments
  • Performing basic laboratory tests
  • Sterilizing medical instruments
  • Instructing patients about medication or special diets
  • Preparing patients for X-rays
  • Removing stitches
  • Drawing blood
  • Changing dressings

Check out Monster’s medical assistant job description for a full rundown of duties.

Where Do Medical Assistants Work?

Approximately 61% of all medical assistants work in doctor’s offices, and others are employed by hospitals, nursing, and other health care facilities.

Some medical assistants specialize in a particular area of medicine. For example, many ophthalmologists, optometrists, and podiatrists require medical assistants with specialized skills.

What Are Typical Medical Assistant Hours?

Most medical assistants work full time. Some work evenings, weekends, or holidays to cover shifts in medical facilities that are always open.

Medical Assistant Training Requirements

By completing the right courses, you can begin taking steps to become a medical assistant as soon as you graduate high school, and then learn more through on-the-job training. Or you can choose to attend a variety of programs that will teach you how to become a medical assistant.

Here are the basic steps to become a certified medical assistant:

  1. Get your high school diploma or GED
  2. Complete an approved postsecondary program
  3. Complete a practicum (unpaid internship in a health care setting)
  4. Take your certification exam

Medical Assistant School

Community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and universities offer 12-month certificates or degrees. Universities and some community colleges offer two-year programs that lead to an associate degree.

You’ll spend time in both the classroom and the laboratory to complete your medical assistant classes, which include:

  • Medical terminology
  • Coding
  • EMR (Electronic Health Record) Software
  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Business

Alternately, there are medical assistant programs that last anywhere from six weeks to one year. These combine classes with field experience in a medical office. Not able to attend in-person classes? You can find online medical assistant programs from accredited schools. These flexible programs let you begin your education on your laptop at home and then work in a health care setting to complete the program.

Need help paying for school? Check out these medical assistant scholarships that can cover some of the costs of your education.

Do You Need Medical Assistant Certification?

Most states do not require you to be certified. However, if you become a certified medical assistant and have familiarity with electronic health records (EHRs), you may have better job prospects.

There are several types of medical assistant certifications offered by accredited organizations. They all require that you graduate from an accredited medical assistant program, have work experience, and then pass an exam. You must be at least 18 years old before applying for most certificated medical assistant programs.

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, accredits five certifications for medical assistants:

Here are some additional resources for information about medical assistant programs and accreditation:

How Much Do Medical Assistants Make?

A medical assistant salary is $15.63 per hour, according to Monster data. Salaries range from less than $25,820 to more than $48,720 and vary by geographic area, according to the BLS. You can look up the average salary for medical assistants in your location by using the Monster Salary Guide.

How to Find Medical Assistant Jobs

A CCMA shortage has arisen in the past 10 years, and is expected to continue through the next decade. To stand out from the crowd of applicants, make sure you show off your experience and training when you apply for a job. Take a look at Monster’s sample medical assistant resume and cover letter to get some ideas.

When you are ready to apply, you’ll find loads of medical assistant jobs on Monster and submit your application.

According to the BLS, states that are hiring the most medical assistants include:

Top five areas:

Ready to Start Your Medical Assistant Career? Do This Next

Now that you know how to become a medical assistant, it's time to find the right employer. Want some help with that? Upload your resume to Monster for free so recruiters can find you for the top jobs in your area that would be the best fit for you.