How to Become a Registered Medical Assistant
- Introduction: What is a Medical Assistant?
- Duties of a Medical Assistant
- Education and Training Requirements
- Certification and Licensure
- Salary and Job Outlook
- Steps to Becoming a Medical Assistant
- Medical Assistant Career Paths
- Medical Assistant Job Titles
- Medical Assistant Specialties
- Medical Assistant Certification
Find out how to become a registered medical assistant Medical assistants are in high demand and can work in a variety of settings.
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Introduction: What is a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants are healthcare professionals who provide vital assistance to doctors and other medical staff in a variety of settings. They perform a wide range of duties, from administrative tasks to clinical procedures, and play an important role in ensuring smooth and efficient operation of healthcare facilities.
Becoming a medical assistant usually requires completing an accredited training program, which can be found at many community colleges, vocational schools, and universities. Some programs may even offer distance learning options for those who are unable to attend classes on-campus. Once you have completed your training, you will need to obtain certification from a recognized organization such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Once you have your certification, you will be eligible to apply for Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) status through your state’s Department of Health.
Duties of a Medical Assistant
Most states regulate medical assistants, requiring certification or licensure in order to work in the field. Registered medical assistants (RMAs) have completed an accredited program and passed a national examination administered by the American Medical Technologists (AMT). They are also required to complete continuing education credits every few years to maintain their registered status.
Medical assistants perform a variety of administrative and clinical tasks to support the work of physicians and other health professionals. Their duties vary by state law and by the specific clinical setting in which they work, but they typically include taking and recording patients’ vital signs, updating medical records scheduling appointments, providing patient education, and preparing exam rooms. Many medical assistants also perform basic laboratory tests and conduct diagnostic scans, such as X-rays and electrocardiograms (EKGs).
Education and Training Requirements
To become a medical assistant individuals must receive the proper education and training. There are a variety of ways to obtain the necessary skills, including completing an accredited medical assistant program, which can be done in as little as a year. Alternatively, some students choose to complete a two-year associate degree program.
After completing an accredited medical assistant program, individuals must then pass the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam administered by the American Medical Technologists (AMT). Once they have passed this exam, they will be officially registered and able to work in all 50 states.
Certification and Licensure
Medical assistants must be certified in order to work in most states, though a small handful of states do not have certification requirements. Certification is available through several organizations, including the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), the American Medical Technologists (AMT), and the National Healthcare Association (NHA). Once certified, medical assistants must maintain their certification through continuing education courses.
In addition to certification, some states require medical assistants to be licensed. Typically, licensure requirements are less stringent than certification requirements. To become licensed, medical assistants must usually take an exam administered by their state’s Board of Medicine.
Salary and Job Outlook
Medical assistants are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for medical assistants will grow much faster than the average for all occupations between now and 2026, at a rate of 29 percent.1 That means an additional 174,600 jobs will open up in the next seven years. With such a large number of job openings, you should have plenty of opportunities to find employment as a medical assistant.
In terms of salary, medical assistants earn a median annual wage of $31,540.2 The highest-paid 10 percent earn more than $45,810, while the lowest-paid 10 percent make less than $22,300.3 Your earnings will likely depend on factors such as your level of experience, your geographical location, and the type of employer you work for.
Steps to Becoming a Medical Assistant
There are several steps you need to take to become a registered medical assistant. Here are the most important ones:
1. Research the requirements. Each state has different requirements for medical assistants, so it’s important that you research the requirements in your state. You can do this by visiting your state’s Board of Medicine website or by contacting them directly.
2. Complete an accredited medical assisting program. Once you know the requirements in your state, you can start looking for accredited medical assisting programs that will help you meet those requirements. These programs are typically offered at community colleges, technical schools, and some universities.
3. Pass the national certification exam. Once you’ve completed an accredited medical assisting program, you’ll be eligible to take the national certification exam. This exam is offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and will test your knowledge and skills in various areas of medical assisting.
Medical Assistant Career Paths
There are two primary types of medical assistants: clinical medical assistants and administrative medical assistants. While both types of medical assistants perform basic administrative and clinical tasks, they differ in the type of tasks they perform and their job responsibilities.
Clinical medical assistants, also known as Medical Assistant-Certified (MA-C) or Medical Assistant-Registered (MA-R), work primarily in the clinical setting. They are responsible for performing a wide range of tasks, including taking patient medical histories and vital signs, preparing patients for examination, assisting physicians with exams and minor surgical procedures, providing instruction to patients on proper self-care after discharge, scheduling follow-up appointments, handling laboratory specimens, and maintaining patient records. In some states, clinical medical assistants may also be allowed to perform certain diagnostic tests, such as electrocardiograms (EKGs).
Administrative medical assistants work primarily in the administrative setting. They are responsible for performing a wide range of tasks, including answering phones, scheduling appointments, verifying insurance coverage, verifying patient information, coding and billing insurance claims, collecting copayments and payments from patients, handling correspondence, organizing patient files, transcribing physician orders, preparing reports, handling finances and bookkeeping duties. In some states, administrative medical assistants may also be allowed to handle human resources duties.
Medical Assistant Job Titles
There are many job titles that medical assistants can have depending on their experience and training. The most common job title is simply “medical assistant,” but there are other titles that are used to describe medical assistants who have more experience or specialize in a certain area. Here are some common job titles for medical assistants:
-Registered medical assistant (RMA)
-Certified medical assistant (CMA)
-Clinical medical assistant (CMA)
-Medical administrative assistant
-Billing and coding specialist
Medical Assistant Specialties
In addition to general medical assisting, many medical assistants specialize in a particular area of medicine such as pediatrics, ophthalmology, or podiatry. To become a registered medical assistant (RMA), you must first graduate from an accredited medical assisting program and then pass an exam administered by the American Medical Technologists (AMT).
Medical Assistant Certification
Being a medical assistant is a highly rewarding career, but it does come with its fair share of challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge faced by medical assistants is the need to be certified. Unlike many other careers in the medical field, there is no certification or license required to work as a medical assistant. However, many employers prefer to hire candidates who have been certified by a professional organization such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
The AAMA certification process is not overly difficult, but it does require some time and effort. First, you must complete an accredited medical assistant training program. Once you have completed your training, you will then need to pass the AAMA Certification Exam. This exam is administered by the Certifying Board of the AAMA and is composed of both a written and an clinical skills examination.
Once you have passed the AAMA Certification Exam, you will then be registered as a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). In order to maintain your CMA credential, you will need to recertify every 60 months by either retake the AAMA Certification Exam or earn 60 continuing education units (CEUs).