The Medical Board of California defines medical assistants as unlicensed individuals who perform non-invasive routine technical support services under the supervision of a licensed:
- Nurse midwife
- Nurse practitioner
- Physician assistant
In California, medical assistants must always work under the direct supervision of a licensed physician or nurse practitioner before performing non-invasive technical support services of any kind.
To become a medical assistant in California, you must be properly trained and qualified to perform the job, which will involve completing the following steps:
|Receive Training Recognized by the Medical Board of California|
|Earn Medical Assistant Certification|
|Receive Training in Venipuncture/Injections|
|Pursue a Medical Assisting Job with One of California’s Top Employers|
Step 1. Receive Training Recognized by the Medical Board of California
Although the Medical Board of California does not license or register medical assistants, it does require that you complete appropriate and acceptable training.
Before you can perform technical supportive services as a medical assistant, your supervising podiatrist, physician, or instructor must ensure that they are competent to perform duties in a way that assures an appropriate level of patient care. Training can be administered in one of the following settings:
- Under a licensed physician or podiatrist; or under a registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, physician assistant, or qualified medical assistant
- In a secondary, post-secondary, or adult education program in a public school authorized by the Department of Education; in a community college program, or in a post-secondary institution approved or accredited by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education within the Department of Consumer Affairs
Post-secondary medical assistant schools, which are typically accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), may be diploma, certificate, or associate degree programs, all of which provide students with the knowledge necessary to perform as a competent, entry-level medical assistant.
In California, there are currently 26 CAAHEP-accredited medical assistant programs and more than 40 ABHES-accredited programs.
Step 2. Earn Medical Assistant Certification
Although national certification is elective in the State of California, your employer and/or supervising physician or podiatrist’s malpractice insurance carrier may require you to be certified by an approved certifying organization.
California is unique in that is provides certification for medical assistants through the Medical Board of California. However, medical assistants may also choose to achieve certification through other national certifying bodies.
Currently, the State recognizes three national certifications:
- California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants: California Certified Medical Assistant (CCMA)
- The American Association of Medical Assistants: Certified Medical Assistant
- American Medical Technologist (AMT): Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
The CCMA Exam
The California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants has been administering the CCMA exam since 1990. This examination, which is offered through Pearson Vue testing locations year-round, consists of the following testing areas:
As a new applicant, you are required to take the Basic examination and either the Administrative or Clinical specialty examination. You must pass both the Basic examination and at least one of the specialty examinations to become certified. The cost of the exam is $115 if you take the Basic and one other specialty examination, or $155 if you take the Basic and both specialty examinations.
If you want to be certified as a CCMA-C (Clinical) medical assistant, you must provide proof of training in venipuncture and/or injections (see step 3).
To be eligible to sit for the CCMA examination, you must first ensure you hold a current CPR certification and meet ONE of the following requirements:
- Be currently employed as a medical assistant by a licensed podiatrist or physician in the U.S.; OR
- Have been employed as a medical assistant for at least 2 of the previous 5 years; OR
- Have graduated from a medical assisting program through an accredited U.S. institution within the last year; OR
- Be currently employed as a medical assistant instructor in an accredited U.S. institution; OR
- Have received U.S. Military training
Step 3. Receive Training in Venipuncture/Injections
If you want to receive CCMA certification in the Clinical specialty (CCMA-C), you must be able to show proof of training in venipuncture/injections. This training, whether it was completed as part of your medical assisting program or through your employer, must include the following:
- 10 clock hours of training in performing skin tests and administering injections; OR
- 10 clock hours of training in skin puncture and venipuncture for the purpose of withdrawing blood; AND
- Satisfactory performance by the trainee of at least 10 each of subcutaneous, intramuscular, and intradermal injections and 10 skin tests, and/or at least 10 skin punctures and 10 venipuncture
If you will administer medication by inhalation, you must also receive at least 10 clock hours of training in the administration of medical by inhalation.
Training in the above must include instruction and demonstration in:
- Anatomy and physiology pertinent to the procedures
- California law and regulations regarding medical assistants
- Choice of equipment
- Emergency procedures
- Hazards and complications
- Patient care following treatment/tests
- Proper technique, including sterilization
Once certified as a CCMA-C, you are permitted to administer medications by subcutaneous, intramuscular, and intradermal injections, perform skin tests, and perform skin puncture or venipuncture for the purposes of withdrawing blood. However, in every instance, a licensed physician or podiatrist (or another appropriate licensed individual) must verify the correct medication and dosage.
Step 4. Pursue a Medical Assisting Job with One of California’s Top Employers
California’s Employment Development Department reported that there was 82,450 medical assistants employed in the State in the first quarter of 2014, up from 82,280 just a year prior. Since 2005, medical assistant jobs increased by more than 31,000 in California, reflecting a significant increase in this healthcare profession.
The first step to becoming a practicing medical assistant following approved education and training is to connect with others in your field. The best way to do this is to become an active member of a professional association, such as the California Society of Medical Assistants.
Medical assistant jobs may be found in a number of settings, including hospitals, ambulatory care centers, and physician groups. Some of the largest physician groups and hospital systems in California include:
- Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, Oakland
- UCLA Medical Group, Los Angeles
- EmCare Nationwide, Santa Barbara
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation Clinic, Santa Cruz
- UC Davis Medical Group, Roseville
- California Emergency Physicians, Pomona
- UC San Diego Medical Group, San Diego