How to Become a Medical Assistant in Iowa

Iowa’s medical assistants: We value them for their reliability, their ability to multi-task and shift between clinical and administrative duties, and their dedication to making sure medical practices of every kind run like a well-oiled machine.

And thanks to stellar growth in many of Iowa’s major healthcare systems like MercyOne, which serves no less than 15 communities throughout Iowa and employs more than 20,000 practitioners and support staff, their numbers continue to increase.

In fact, Iowa Workforce Development projects the number of medical assistants here will increase by nearly 3% in the two-year run-up to 2021.

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Earn the education and certification preferred by Iowa’s healthcare employers and you’ll soon be able to join the ranks of the state’s qualified medical assistants, who are enjoying outstanding professional opportunities.

Here are the steps you’ll want to take to become a medical assistant in Iowa:

Complete a Medical Assistant Program in Iowa
Develop Your Medical Assistant Credentials Through National Certification
Find a Job in Medical Assisting You’ll Love



Step 1. Complete a Medical Assistant Program in Iowa

A well-qualified medical assistant’s resume should always include a formal course of education and training that includes a field experience. Required by most Iowa employers and valued by medical assistants for the professional opportunities they produce, medical assisting programs are available in-person and online as either full two-year associate degrees or as shorter course certificate and diploma programs that take less than a year to complete.

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While all three of these types of programs offer a similar course of education and practical training in medical assisting, the Associate of Science (AS) in Medical Assisting often earns more attention from aspiring medical assistants because of the professional opportunities and increased earning power it brings. You’ll also find that many of the state’s top healthcare employers either require or prefer job candidates with an associate’s degree. There’s a simple reason for that: the general education courses included in these programs produce well-rounded medical assistants with stronger written and verbal communication skills.

It’s also the degree of choice if you are considering earning a bachelor’s degree in the future. Most credits earned in an AS degree easily transfer to a bachelor’s in the allied health and medical sciences fields, thereby streamlining the process of earning a four-year degree. Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees are also widely available, the only difference being that they are strictly designed to provide career training so they don’t typically work as transfer degrees if you’re considering a bachelor’s down the line.

Whichever type of medical assisting program you choose, it’s worth looking for one that’s accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Choosing an accredited program ensures you’re ready for the job and easily able to meet the eligibility requirements for national certification.

There are more than a dozen of these accredited programs available to Iowa residents, both online and located throughout the state.

Accredited programs include courses such as:

  • Diseases and health of the human
  • Medical assistant laboratory procedures
  • Medical assistant clinical procedures
  • Medical office procedures and management
  • Diagnostic radiography
  • Medical terminology
  • Psychology and communication
  • Medical assistant computer software programs
  • Medical insurance billing and coding
  • Medical law and ethics
  • Medical assistant practicum or seminar



Step 2. Develop Your Medical Assistant Credentials Through National Certification

National certification should always be a pursuit if you want a front row seat to some of the best opportunities in the profession. Though not required to practice, national certification is your ticket to excellent job opportunities, advancement in the profession, and higher wages. In short, don’t ever discount the value of national certification.

The two most common certifications in the industry include:

To earn either the CMA or RMA, you’ll need to qualify through education and/or experience, and you’ll need to pass a certification examination. You’ll also need to keep these certs current through the completion of specific continuing education requirements.

Learn more about the CMA exam here.

Learn more about the RMA exam here.

Other popular certifications in medical assisting include:



Step 3. Find a Job in Medical Assisting You’ll Love

You’re sure to find that becoming a member of a professional organization like the Iowa Society of Medical Assistants (ISMA) offers great benefits in the form of networking events, continuing education opportunities to keep your national certification current, and up-to-date news on the profession and Iowa’s healthcare industry.

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Once you’ve earned the education and credentials that’ll make you a competitive job candidate, you can begin to explore what Iowa’s healthcare employers are offering in terms of job opportunities. Some of the biggest healthcare systems worth checking out include:

  • University of Iowa Hospital & Clinics, Iowa City
  • MercyOne Des Moines, Des Moines
  • Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Des Moines
  • Genesis Medical Center, Davenport
  • Luke’s Hospital, Cedar Rapids
  • Mary Greeley Medical, Ames


2019 job growth projections from the Iowa Workforce Development 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.

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