A growing population, and one that keeps getting older, has always been part of the story playing out in Florida. And now more than ever, that story also includes a growing healthcare industry that’s hiring more than ever before to meet the unprecedented demand for health services. All these factors come together to rank Florida among the top states in the nation when it comes to job growth for medical assistants.
Thanks to cities like Clearwater, Cape Coral, and Ft. Lauderdale, which are all ranked among the oldest in the nation based on the median age of their residents, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity projects that the number of medical assistants here will skyrocket 6.4% during the two-year period from 2019 to 2021 alone.
About 8,490 annual openings in this field due to retirements, job turnover, and new job creation bode well for both new and practicing medical assistants looking to find that first job or next opportunity.
In other words, if you’ve got the qualifications, Florida’s got the jobs. Follow these steps to become a qualified medical assistant in Florida:
|Complete a Florida Medical Assistant Education Program|
|Earn National Certification|
|Find a Job You’ll Love|
Florida statutes clearly define the duties medical assistants are allowed to perform. Under the guidance, direct supervision and responsibility of a licensed physician, a Florida medical assistant may:
- Perform dialysis procedures (includes home dialysis)
- Perform office and administrative duties and procedures
- Perform basic laboratory procedures
- Administer medication as a physician directs him or her to do
- Collect routine laboratory specimens as a physician directs him or her to do
- Operate office medical equipment
- Assist with patient treatments
- Assist with patient examinations
- Observe and report patient signs and symptoms
- Perform venipunctures and non-intravenous injections
- Prepare patients for a physician’s care
- Take vital signs
- Perform aseptic procedures
Step 1. Complete a Florida Medical Assistant Education Program
Completing an accredited training program is one of the best, first steps you can take on your road to becoming a medical assistant.
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are the two national accrediting agencies that review medical assisting curriculum and grant accreditation to qualifying programs. They accredit diploma, certificate, and associate degree programs in medical assisting.
Choosing a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited program ensures that you’ll have the qualifications necessary to easily qualify for national certification and perform any and all tasks in an entry-level medical assisting job. In other words, accreditation is your guarantee of a quality program.
- There are currently 14 CAAHEP-accredited programs in Florida in locations such as:
- Winter Park
- Lake Worth
- There are 19 ABHES-accredited programs in Florida in locations such as:
- Boca Raton
- Pembroke Pines
- Altamonte Springs
- Fort Lauderdale
- Pompano Beach
Medical assisting curriculum in accredited programs includes coursework in areas such as:
- Therapeutic care
- Laboratory procedures
- Cardiopulmonary procedures
- Medical insurance
- Health sciences
- Clinical assisting
- Patient care
All accredited programs also include a practical learning experience where you’ll learn how to apply what you’ve studied in the classroom in a real-world setting.
While you’ll find a similar level of medical assisting education and training in diploma, certificate, and associate degree programs, associate degrees take more time to complete (2 years vs. 10-12 months) since they include a general education core.
Even though earning an associate’s degree requires more time to complete, it pays off in the form of higher wages and better job opportunities. Many employers now prefer medical assistants with an associate’s degree. Plus, if you’ve got goals of earning your bachelor’s degree down the road, an Associate of Science (AS) program should be on your radar, as you can expect most of the courses to transfer to a bachelor’s in any allied health field, including health science degrees with a concentration in medical assisting. Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees are also widely available, but as career training degrees the credits aren’t usually transferrable.
Step 2. Earn National Certification
National certification is your opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition and show a commitment to your profession. The American Association of Medical Assistants’ Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) and the American Medical Technologists’ Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) remain the two largest professional designations in medical assisting.
You can qualify for both through education and/or experience, and each one requires passing a certification examination.
Earn the CMA by passing the CMA Certification/Recertification Exam, which is given at Prometric test centers in:
- Boca Raton
- West Palm Beach
- Fort Myers
- Temple Terrace
Earn the RMA by passing the RMA Exam, which is given at Pearson Vue test centers in:
- Avon Park
- Port Charlotte
- Altamonte Springs
- Newport Richey
- Pembroke Pines
Other respected general and specialty certification options include:
- National Healthcare Association: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
- National Center for Competency Testing: The National Certified Medical Assistant
- The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel In Ophthalmology: Certified Ophthalmic Assistant
- The American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants: Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified
Step 3. Find a Job You’ll Love
Congratulations! Your hard work and training has paid off, and you’re ready to join the ranks of Florida’s medical assistants.
Consider becoming a member of a professional association like the AAMA’s Florida Society of Medical Assistants or the Florida State Society of American Medical Technologists. Both of these organizations serve as great resources when it comes to finding continuing education opportunities to keep your national certification current, networking with others in the profession, and staying up-to-date on the latest happenings in the industry.
When it comes time to land your first job, you’ll find plenty of great opportunities through some of Florida’s biggest healthcare systems, medical practices, and clinics, such as:
- Advent Health for Women, Orlando
- Mayo Clinic Florida, Jacksonville
- John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, St. Petersburg
- Cleveland Clinic Florida, Weston
- Broward Health Medical Center, Fort Lauderdale
- Tampa General, Tampa
- Community Health of South Florida, Miami
2019 job growth projections from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity are aggregated through the U.S. Department of Labor-Sponsored resource, Projections Central. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
All salary and employment data accessed July 2020.