Summary of Qualifications for Medical Assistants

Medical Assistants are in high demand! Discover what skills and qualifications you need to get your start in this growing field.

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To qualify for a job as a medical assistant, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent, although some employers may prefer candidates who have completed a postsecondary medical assisting program. Most programs last about one year and lead to a certificate or diploma. Some community colleges offer two-year associate’s degree programs in medical assisting.

Employers also value work experience, so you may want to consider completing an internship or externship as part of your training program. Many Medical assistants have previous experience working in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital, doctor’s office, or nursing home. Strong communication and customer service skills are also important in this role, as medical assistants often interact directly with patients.


Medical assistants perform a variety of clerical, administrative, and clinical tasks in medical offices and clinics. Their duties vary by state law and by the size and location of the healthcare facility in which they work. Most medical assistants work in physicians’ offices, hospitals, or outpatient clinics. Depending on state law, they may be allowed to give injections, take X rays, remove sutures, apply casts, or change dressings.

Most medical assistants have postsecondary education such as a certificate or diploma from a medical assisting program. Many of these programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Some states have certification programs for medical assistants.


In order to qualify as a medical assistant, applicants must display a strong set of skills. These skills can be categor

-List of skills-
Interpersonal skills: Medical assistants must be able to interact with patients in a friendly and professional manner. They may be the first person that a patient sees when they come into the office, so it is important that they are able to make a good impression and put the patient at ease.

Communication skills: Medical assistants must be able to communicate effectively with patients, doctors, and other members of the healthcare team. They will need to take accurate medical histories and relay information about symptoms and test results.

Organizational skills: Medical assistants must be able to keep track of patients’ medical records schedule appointments, and manage other office duties. They need to be able to multitask and stay calm under pressure.

Technical skills: Medical assistants must be proficient in basic medical procedures and administrative tasks. They may need to take vital signs, administer shots or medicine, prepare patients for exams, or perform basic lab tests. They will also need to know how to use computers and office equipment.


While many medical assistants have postsecondary education, some states allow them to work with on-the-job training after completing a brief period of observations or an externship in a physician’s office or other medical facility. Others may need to complete a certified medical assistant training program that typically lasts about 1 year.


Applicants for medical assistant positions must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers may prefer or require applicants to have completed a postsecondary medical assisting program.
While not required, certification may demonstrate to potential employers that an individual has the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the duties of a medical assistant. A number of certifying organizations offer credentialing for medical assistants. The Certifying Commission of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential, which is recognized by many states as evidence of having met certain educational and professional requirements. The National Healthcare Association awards the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential, and the American Medical Technologists offers the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential.


In order to work as a medical assistant, certification is not required in all states, however most employers prefer to hire candidates who have received certification from an accredited institution. The two main institutions that offer certification for medical assistants are the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and the National Healthcare Association (NHA). There are also many online programs that offer certification, but it is important to research these programs carefully to make sure they are accredited and will be recognized by potential employers.


The majority of medical assistants are paid hourly, and the median hourly wage was $14.39 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.61, and the top 10 percent earned more than $20.71. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest number of medical assistants in May 2015 were as follows:

Offices of physicians$30,730
General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private29,860
Offices of other health practitioners28,330
Outpatient care centers27,930
Elementary and secondary schools; local governmentowned26,950
Median annual earnings for medical assistants were $30,270 in May 2015. The middle 50 percent earned between $25,760 and $35,980 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,410, while the top 10 percent made more than $41 ,570 a year

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of medical assistants is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024. The job outlook for medical assistants is very good, due in large part to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA is expected to increase the number of people who have health insurance and, as a result, the demand for health care services.

Career Paths

Medical assistants are in demand in a variety of health care settings. Many find work in doctors’ offices, but medical assistants also work in hospitals, nursing homes and outpatient facilities. Some medical assistants choose to specialize in a particular area of medicine, such as pediatrics or geriatrics. Others work in general medicine and provide basic patient care and administrative support.

The skills required to be a successful medical assistant vary depending on the employer and the type of position. However, there are some basic skills that all medical assistants should possess, including strong communication and interpersonal skills, excellent organizational skills, and the ability to multitask. Medical assistants must also be detail oriented and able to work well under pressure. In addition to these soft skills, medical assistants must also have some basic medical knowledge and understanding of Medical Terminology


Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we get about medical assisting qualifications.

What are the educational requirements for medical assistants?
-A high school diploma or equivalent is required
-Completion of an accredited medical assistant program is preferred
-Certification is not required, but may be needed for certain positions

What are the duties of a medical assistant?
-Varies by state, but may include greeting patients, scheduling appointments, taking and recording patient vital signs, performing basic laboratory tests, giving injections, and assists with minor office surgery

What are the working hours for medical assistants?
-Varies by position and office hours, but generally Monday-Friday during daytime hours. Some evening and weekend work may be required.

What is the job outlook for medical assistants?
-The job outlook is positive, with an estimated 23% growth from 2016 to 2026. This is due to an aging population and advances in technology leading to increased demand for health services.

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