How to Become a Medical Assistant in Iowa

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To be a part of the medical assisting field – a sector that is projected to see strong growth for years to come – you will need to make yourself an attractive candidate for medical assistant jobs in Iowa. You can accomplish this by following these steps:

Learn About Medical Assistant Education Options in Iowa
Develop Your Medical Assistant Credentials
Maintain and Enhance Your Medical Assistant Qualifications

No matter where they work, Iowa’s approximately 4,780 medical assistants have found jobs because they have demonstrated competence, most often through education, nationally recognized certification or experience, or some combination of the three.

Concentrations of medical assistants in Iowa mirror the state’s general population patterns. Across the state you can find medical assistants working virtually anywhere health and medical services are offered, including:

  • 1,460 medical assistants in Council Bluffs-Omaha greater metropolitan area
  • 1,150 medical assistants in the greater Des Moines and West Des Moines areas
  • 690 medical assistants in the greater Davenport area
  • 380 medical assistants in Cedar Rapids
  • 320 medical assistants in Iowa City
  • 270 medical assistants in the Waterloo and Cedar Falls areas
  • 240 medical assistants in Sioux City
  • 160 medical assistants in Dubuque
  • 120 medical assistants in Ames



Step 1. Learn About Medical Assistant Education Options in Iowa

An important underlying foundation for your professional credentials can be a medical assistant degree. This starts at an associate’s of science level, progresses to include a bachelor’s of science in a field such as medical sciences, and can culminate with an advanced degree in fields like medical administration and health information technology.

Earning an associate’s degree or professional certificate is an important foundation for any would-be professional thinking about starting a career in the field of medical assisting. It is also a requirement for many of the nationally recognized medical assistant certification credentials. Some certification options require an education from academic programs accredited by one of these specific agencies:

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

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

As you complete your studies you can expect to take courses that include:

  • 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

In addition to earning an education from medical assistant schools in Iowa, there are also a number of professional credentials available to residents across the state. These are offered by national agencies, with some of the most common being:

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

One of the most widely recognized professional certifications, you can become eligible for a CMA once you meet the following conditions:

The CMA Exam is made up of 200 multiple-choice questions that you must complete within 160 minutes. It is offered at Prometric testing centers across Iowa and you can sign up online to take the exam. Topics evaluated on the exam are taken from three main subject areas:

  • General subjects
  • Administrative subjects
  • Clinical subjects

Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

You can earn the RMA credential by completing one the following five routes to eligibility:

  • Graduate from an accredited academic program that includes at least 720 hours of coverage on the topic of medical assisting, including at least 160 hours of a clinical externship
  • Graduate from a formal medical services training program sponsored by the US Armed Forces
  • Have graduated from high school and worked as a medical assistant for at least five years; your work must have included both clinical and administrative duties
  • Be a medical assistant instructor with at least five years of teaching experience or teaching experience with multiple years of clinical medical assisting experience
  • Have earned another recognized medical assisting certification that includes passing an exam; you will therefore be exempt from taking the RMA Exam

Once you have completed one of these routes of eligibility you will be qualified to take the RMA Exam. Passing this will earn you the RMA credential.

Medical Assistant (NCMA)

There are several routes to eligibility you can take to qualify for the NCMA Exam, and these are:

  • Be a current student or graduate from a medical assistant school that is approved by the NCCT
  • Have at least two years of full-time work experience as a medical assistant
  • Complete the equivalent of medical assistant training in the US Military
  • Earn an equivalent medical assisting credential from another accrediting organization
  • Be a nurse of doctor in a foreign country
  • Be a medical assistant instructor with at least 10 years of experience

Once you pass the NCMA Exam you will earn the NCMA credential.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

To become a CCMA you will need to take and pass the CCMA Exam.

Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA)

You will need to pass the NRCMA Exam to earn the NRCMA credential. To register for this exam you must complete an application with the NAHP. You will also need to first be eligible to take the NRCMA Exam, and there are three ways of doing this:

  • Be a graduate of an accredited or approved medical assisting school or course of study
  • Have had at least two years of formal medical training in the US Armed Forces
  • Have been employed as a medical assistant or closely related field for at least two years, and be able to obtain your employer’s recommendation



Step 3. Maintain and Enhance Your Medical Assistant Qualifications

Check with you employer to determine any specific continuing education requirements you must meet as you develop your career.

If you need to maintain a specific medical assistant certification you will need to meet the requirements as determined by the accrediting agency:

  • CMA – this expires 60 months after it is issued, and to maintain this you will need to either earn 60 re-certification points, including at least 30 points from AAMA-approved continuing education units, or retake the CMA Exam

  • NRCMA – complete the following three requirements:
    • Maintain a current CPR card
    • Complete at least two A-Class Continuing Education Units (CEUs) each year
    • Maintain an annual membership with the NAHP

In addition to maintaining a professional credential, you may also consider earning a more advanced degree in fields related to medical assisting, such as medical sciences and medical administration.

As you learn about how to become a medical assistant in Iowa, you can also find useful information about this career field through professional organizations such as the Iowa Society of Medical Assistants (ISMA).

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