Medical assistants are multi-skilled health care support workers with clinical and administrative responsibilities. They support the physicians and fulfil multiple roles to keep the healthcare facilities functional.
As per the data, nearly 725,000 medical assistants were working in America in 2019. This number is expected to increase up to 19% by 2029, as per the US department of labour data.
It implies that as a medical aspirant, a person can expect steady growth in the healthcare industry. This is due to the continuous expansion of the healthcare industry in the upcoming years. Therefore, it is crucial to stay equipped with the right skills and knowledge to pursue a career as a medical assistant.
A student can enrol in the following facilities for foundational education. It is the first requirement to start the medical assistant career path.
- Vocational technical high school
- Post-secondary vocational schools
- Junior colleges
- Universities and formal colleges
After the completion of foundational education, candidates can enrol in a certified medical assistant training program.
Students must select an accredited medical assistant training program recognized and accepted by national certifying bodies. These certifying bodies are Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
After completing the theoretical curriculum, every student needs to complete an externship to learn the practical skills expected from a competent medical assistant.
Students work closely under the medical supervisors and physicians in a healthcare facility to prepare for entry-level jobs during an internship. The certified medical assistant training program prepares the students to crack Nationally Certified Medical Assistant Exams and get their certifications.
Post this; a student becomes a certified medical assistant and ends up with competitive salaries and benefits instead of the noncertified medical assistants.
Certification Requirements As A Medical Assistant
Although certification is not mandatory for the job role, employers prefer hiring a candidate with nationally accredited credentials. It also expands the career opportunities for the candidate and reflects a candidate’s sincerity and dedication towards the healthcare field.
These are the certifications candidates can pursue depending upon their interest-
- The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel In Ophthalmology: Certified Ophthalmic Assistant
- The American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants: Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified
- The American Medical Technologists: Registered Medical Assistant credential
- The American Association of Medical Assistants: Certified Medical Assistant credential
- National Healthcare Association: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
- National Center for Competency Testing: The National Certified Medical Assistant
The medical assistant training program curriculum includes theoretical and practical segments for imparting academic and practical knowledge.
Theoretical part- A medical assistant training program curriculum may vary depending upon the institution and duration of the program. However, almost every program includes the following subjects-
- Clinical and diagnostic procedures
- First aid
- Insurance processing
- Laboratory techniques
- Medical administration
- Medical law
- Medical terminology
- Patient relations
- Pharmaceutical principles
- Record keeping
- Typing transcription
Externship– Externship is a significant part of an accredited medical assistant training program. It is an eligibility criterion for taking the nationally accredited certification exam. During the externship, the candidates shadow the experienced medical assistants and work under supervision to get hands-on training and learn essential skills for working in a healthcare facility.
The aspiring medical assistant will work in different setups as well as specialized medical offices during the externship. Here the student will learn to work with high-tech machinery like X-ray machines and intricacies to set up the equipment.
An assigned professional will evaluate your skills during the externship’s beginning, middle, and end to assess your growth. Constructive criticism is a part of externships where you identify and strengthen your weak areas and become a qualified professional. Students can also get paid training in medical assistant programs.
An accredited medical assistant training program prepares the students for an entry-level job through theoretical and practical skills. After completing the program, the students will have the following skills to meet the standard of competency that employers seek-
- EKG injections
- Routine examinations
- Patient history obtaining and recording
- Vital sign recording
- Medical law and ethics
- Insurance, billing, and other administrative duties
After completing the medical assistant training program, the student will become a versatile individual, providing extensive structural support to administrative, clinical, and laboratory departments.
With the right skills, a candidate can fill the position in the following facilities-
- Private clinics
- Group medical practice
- Surgical hospitals
- Assisted living facilities for elderly
- Long term medical care facilities
- Clinical laboratory, etc
The working professionals aiming to advance their studies can also enrol in a medical assistant training program online. These are the hybrid version of the training program picked up by several interested healthcare professionals.
The medical assistant training program online can merge into your lifestyle and provides the flexibility of learning at your comfort. As the course advances, you have to be present for the externship to learn practical skills in the healthcare facility.
Duration Of Degrees And Certifications For Medical Assistant
The medical assistant training program lengths differ based on the certification, diploma, and associate degree. A certificate program or diploma can last for a year. At the same time, the associate degree program can last for two years.
The externship training hours differ for the certifications and associate degrees depending on the length of the medical assistant training program. The certification is less expensive than the associate degree. With a certificate, a candidate enters the workforce quickly. However, the credits are not transferable if a candidate decides to pursue higher education in the future.
The only exception to these credits transfer is for colleges that allow the students to finish their associate degree at the same premises they have initially earned their certificate. With an associate degree, you learn more generalized subjects and transfer the credits while pursuing higher education.
Most candidates prefer to complete their education through a certified medical assistant training program. However, some students skip this step and start working right away. Due to unregulated rules, having an accredited certification becomes valuable from the employer’s viewpoint.
The job responsibility of an individual can vary depending upon the facility setups, size, location, and practice speciality. A medical assistant career involves clinical as well as administrative responsibilities. A candidate can pursue a career in either one of them through administrative and clinical medical assistant training programs.
- Clinical medical assistant- A clinical medical assistant is more focused on the medical aspects and assisting the physicians in clinical procedures. For this, the candidate needs to enroll in a clinical medical assistant training program.
The job responsibility of a clinical medical assistant includes-
- Assisting physicians during a patient examination
- Authorizing prescription refills
- Changing patient dressings, removing sutures
- Drawing blood and collecting lab specimens
- Helping patients understand medical treatments and therapies
- Interviewing patients, asking questions about their medical histories
- Preparing medical therapies and administering them under the direction of a physician
- Preparing patients for examinations
- Providing direction, support, and counseling regarding patient administration of medical therapies and medications
- Serving as a patient liaison
- Taking patient vitals
- Administrative medical assistant- The medical office assistants are the first point of contact for patients. They actively perform administrative duties learned during an administrative medical assistant training program.
The job responsibility of administrative medical assistant includes-
- Managing and updating patient records
- Greeting patients
- Making appointments
- Maintaining the front desk and reception areas
- Performing general accounting and billing services
- Transcribing treatment notes
- Arranging for patient hospitalization
- Processing insurance forms
- Overseeing office and medical supplies inventory
- Managing email and mail traffic
The differentiation of both categories is applicable in large settings. However, in small facilities, the boundaries are often blurred.
Although a medical assistant training program prepares a student for all the general duties as an entry-level employee in different setups, some medical assistants prefer to specialize.
A medical assistant can choose to get a special certification to work in special facilities like Ophthalmology, Podiatry, Chiropractic, etc., as an assistant.
- Podiatric medical assistant- Podiatric medical assistant certification is for a medical assistant who wants to work in a Podiatry facility (treatment of foot). It is accredited by the ASPMA (American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants).
- Ophthalmic medical assistant- Certified Ophthalmic Assistant Certification is accredited by JCAHPO (Joint Commission Of Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology). This certification is for the medical assistants planning to assist the Ophthalmologists.
Specific State Requirements As A Medical Assistant
Some states restrict the limit of procedures a medical assistant can perform. At some facilities, a medical assistant might have to undergo training before performing specific procedures like administering medicine by the intradermal, intramuscular, and subcutaneous puncture.
Similarly, some medical assistants can perform specific procedures only under supervision as per the rules. Therefore, it is vital to meet the particular eligibility criteria by the state before starting a job.
Salary Of A Qualified Medical Assistant
The salary range of medical assistants varies depending upon the work condition, working hours, and state in which they are applying for a job. On average, the medical assistant earns up to $16 an hour. According to the resources and studies, the medical assistant salary ranges from $30,000 to $40,000 in general.
Candidates with Certified Medical Assistant designation and few years of experience will likely earn up to $10,000 above the mid-level salary. As per BLS, the highest paying state for medical assistants in 2019 were-
- Alaska: $45,630
- Washington D.C.: $44,530
- Washington: $43,670
- Massachusetts: $41,780
- Minnesota: $41,710
The salary was higher in the metro areas located on the west coast due to the higher cost of living. Since the clinical experiences and curriculum are similar across the medical departments, having an accredited certification can help you stand out from the rest and open better employment opportunities.
As per BLS reports, the medical assistants are paid highest in the following settings-
- Computer systems design and related services: $43,870
- Junior colleges: $43,400
- Agencies, brokerages, and other insurance-related activities: $42,850
- Other amusement and recreation industries: $41,850
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories: $40,960
The medical assistant is a high-paying, respectable and exciting job with an ever-growing scope. This is because the healthcare industry is a significant contributor to the economic development of a country. For this reason, aspiring and skilled medical assistants with certifications will always be in demand.
Whether a candidate is an entry-level technician or an advanced medical assistant, medical professionals employed in the healthcare industry have ample opportunities to grow in their careers.
Since healthcare facilities are open 24X7, medical assistant’s duties are not restricted by time. Medical assistants work full time with shifts including weekends and holidays with odd working hours.
The working hours depend upon the facility and environment and are the critical determinants while pursuing a job. In the majority of facilities, the medical assistants serve the standard hours.
The medical assistant certification has become a standard of competency and eligibility criteria among employers. The salary and benefits of a certified and noncertified medical assistant vary significantly as well.
Aspiring medical assistants prefer to enrol in the medical assistant training program for a flourishing career. To know more about the medical assistant training program, connect with the MedAssistantEDU experts.