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How to Become a Medical Assistant in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia does not license medical assistants, so there is no minimum requirement for education and training enforced at the district level. Determining the competency of a medical assistant job candidate is left to employers, who most often seek healthcare support professionals that have completed a formal program and demonstrated their knowledge by earning national certification.

According to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2013, medical assistants working in the District of Columbia earned the second-highest salary of any metro area in the nation. That year, the 1460 medical assistants working in Washington, DC earned an average salary of $38,870 annually, about $8000 higher than the national average for this profession. This is great news if you are live within the District of Columbia and are interested in pursuing medical assistant jobs there.

If you would like to become a well-qualified medical assistant in the District of Columbia, consider taking the following steps:

Complete Medical Assistant Education
Consider Earning National Certification
Pursue a Job and Maintain Your Medical Assistant Credential

 


 

Step 1. Consider Completing a Medical Assistant Education Program

Although national certification is not mandatory in DC, it can help you to become a highly qualified medical assistant job candidate.

Graduating from medical assistant schools that offer programs accredited by one of the two major accreditation bureaus will ensure you are eligible to pursue national certification:

  • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)

There are many programs in neighboring Maryland and Virginia, as well as online programs, which have been accredited by either the ABHES or CAAHEP.

In any medical assistant preparation program, you can expect to find similar coursework, with titles such as:

  • First Aid
  • CPR
  • Medical terminology
  • Pharmacology
  • Ethics
  • Medical law, particularly the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) Act
  • Electronic health records
  • Human anatomy
  • Psychology
  • Physiology
  • Clinical and diagnostic procedures
  • Administration of medication
  • Computer applications
  • Administration of office practices
  • Laboratory techniques

You can also count on participating in an internship/field experience portion in your medical assistant education program. You will work alongside licensed health care practitioners in a professional setting, performing the skills, competencies and techniques you have learned in your medical assistant degree program.

Local hospitals that may partner with local schools for student field experience programs include:

  • Children’s National Medical Center
  • Washington Hospital Center
  • George Washington University Medical Center
  • Sibley Memorial Hospital
  • Providence Hospital
  • Howard University Hospital

 


 

Step 2. Consider Earning National Certification

Although national certification is not necessary in order to work as a medical assistant in the District of Columbia, obtaining your credential can set you apart from other, non-certified candidates.

There is one credential that is recognized above the others – Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To earn this credential, you must pass the CMA Certification/Recertification Exam. The exam is administered at Prometric testing centers. Although there is just one center located in DC, other centers are close to the area and include:

  • 1600 L Street NW, Suite 204, District of Columbia
  • Bethesda, MD
  • Falls Church, VA
  • Landover, MD
  • Columbia, MD

Other national certifications that you may pursue as a medical assistant in the District of Columbia are:

 


 

Step 3. Pursue a Job and Maintain Your Medical Assistant Credential

Now that you are a certified medical assistant in the District of Columbia, it is time to search for a job. The District of Columbia is full of health care facilities of all types, many of which employ medical assistants. Examples include:

  • National Integrated Health Associates
  • Providence Hospital
  • American College of Cardiology
  • George Washington Medical Faculty Associates
  • Shady Grove Fertility Center
  • MedStar Physician Partners
  • Doctors Community Hospital (Lanham, MD)
  • S. Navy Clinical Care
  • Defense Health Agency
  • Sibley Memorial Hospital
  • Washington Hospital Center
  • Mary’s Center
  • Georgetown University Hospital

Keeping Your Credentials Up to Date

Regardless of your certifying organization, you must fulfill certain criteria in order to maintain national certification. The AAMA requires you to renew your CMA every five years, and to complete 60 recertification points during that five-year period (or re-take the examination again). Half of these points must come from AAMA-approved continuing education units (CEUs). A fee must also be paid at the time of recertification.

If you are an RMA with AMT, your credential renews annually. You must also comply with AMT’s Certification Continuation Program (CCP) of continuing education to maintain your credential. Options to fulfill these requirements include online courses, webinars, state society meetings, national meetings, publications, and other educational opportunities. You must also pay an annual fee to maintain your RMA credential.

If you hold a CCMA credential you must complete five online continuing education credits per year. Approved CE providers are listed here. You must also pay an annual fee to maintain your CCMA credential.

If you hold a NCMA credential, you must complete online continuing education courses annually. These courses may be taken in the form of webinars, specialty courses, and documented courses from other providers. You must also pay a recertification fee.

Professional Organizations for Medical Assistants in District of Columbia

The District of Columbia does not have its own local chapter of the American Association of Medical Assistants. The AAMA recommends that CMAs participate as members of the national AAMA association instead. For information on starting a local District of Columbia chapter of the AAMA, contact the AAMA at membership@aama-ntl.org.

If you are an RMA, you may wish to join the DC/DC/MD State Society of the American Medical Technologists. Information on this local chapter may be found here.

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