How to Become a Medical Assistant in Maryland

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Maryland’s medical assistants are the critical support staff that physician’s offices, hospitals and clinics rely on. Covering duties at the front desk and providing assistance in the exam room, they are skilled at multi-tasking and have the people skills to make every patient feel welcome and comfortable. Whether they’re answering phones, greeting patients, preparing an exam room, or completing billing paperwork, their ability to easily shift between administrative and clinical tasks makes them simply invaluable.

Best of all, medical assisting is coming in hot in terms of the professional opportunities the field offers anybody with the right training and education

Not only are jobs in this profession growing at an impressive clip (The Maryland Department of Labor projects an increase of 4.6% in the number of medical assistants between 2019 and 2021 alone.), opportunities to rise through the ranks with world-renowned health systems are widely available here. Baltimore’s John Hopkins is just one example of how Maryland has established itself with a reputation for excellence in healthcare, with U.S. News & World Report ranking it third among the top hospitals in the nation for both adult and pediatric care.

With an average of 1,750 annual openings for medical assistants in Maryland due to a combination of retirements, normal job turnover, and new job creation, you can bet there’ll be plenty of outstanding opportunities to get your career started in Maryland.

But before you can join this flourishing profession, you’ll need to come prepared with the education and training Maryland’s employers expect.

Here’s what you’ll need to do to become a medical assistant in Maryland:

Complete a Medical Assistant Education Program in Maryland
Earn National Certification
Consider Your Career Options and Maintain Your Credentials

In Maryland, all medical assistants must work directly under a delegating physician’s supervision when providing:

  • Surgical technical acts
  • Nonsurgical technical acts
  • Patient preparation for physical exam
  • Collection of and processing specimens/phlebotomy
  • Patient history interview
  • Microbiology specimens
  • Clinical tests like electrocardiography, TB tests
  • Preparation of and administration of oral drugs
  • Injecting of intravenous drugs with supervision

A Maryland medical assistant may not:

  • Conduct a physical exam
  • Administer an anesthetic agent of conscious sedation (other than topical or local anesthetic)
  • Dispense medications
  • Provide physical therapy services
  • Give medical advice without consulting physician
  • Initiate independent treatment except CPR

 


 

Step 1. Complete a Medical Assistant Education Program in Maryland

There’s no better way to get your medical assisting career off the ground than to complete a formal course of education in medical assisting.

Medical assisting programs are designed as certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs, and by choosing a program that’s been accredited by either the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), you’re guaranteed to meet eligibility requirements for national certification.

To date, there are 2 ABHES-accredited medical assisting programs and 5 CAAHEP-accredited programs in Maryland, and many more online.

Whether you choose an accredited certificate, diploma, or associate degree program, you’ll receive a similar course of education and practical training in medical assisting. Some of the courses in these programs include:

  • Office practices and administration
  • First aid and CPR
  • Ethics
  • EKG testing
  • Clinical and diagnostic procedures
  • Laboratory techniques
  • Computer applications
  • Medical terminology
  • Human anatomy, pathology, and physiology

However, while a certificate or diploma will take anywhere from 10-12 months to complete, an associate’s degree program will take closer to 2 years because of the additional general education core.

An Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science degree has become the degree of choice for many, as it often results in better job opportunities, higher wages, and more opportunities for advancement. The AS is also the best option for medical assistants with aspirations of continuing their education at the bachelor’s level at some point, as most or all of the courses in an AS degree easily transfer to a bachelor’s in areas like healthcare administration, allied health sciences, and more. AAS degrees come with all the same benefits in terms of expanded opportunities, but aren’t typically designed as transfer degrees.

 


 

Step 2. Earn National Certification

National certification is a popular pursuit among medical assistants in Maryland who want to display a commitment to their profession and get a leg up on the competition when it comes time to land a job.

While a number of national certifications in medical assisting exist, the nationally recognized “gold standard” remains the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).

Completion of an accredited program will earn you eligibility to take the CMA exam, which you’ll apply online to take. Keep in mind that you’ll need to apply in a timely manner to take the CMA exam. For example, to take the exam in January, you must have your application mailed by September 20 of the previous year.

Once the AAMA accepts your application and has sent you a scheduling permit, you can register to take the exam at a Prometric testing center near you. In Maryland, testing centers are located in:

  • Hyattsville
  • Columbia
  • Baltimore
  • Towson
  • Bethesda
  • Salisbury

Other Certification Options in Maryland

Though the CMA is the most popular pursuit among medical assistants, it’s certainly not the only designation in the profession. Others include:

  • American Medical Technologists – offers the RMA (Registered Medical Assistant) Requires graduation from a medical assistant program accredited by a regional or national agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Program must be 720 clock hours long and include a practicum of at least 160 hours.
  • National Center for Competency Testing – offers the NCMA (Nationally Certified Medical Assistant) You must be a recent graduate or student at a recognized school to take the exam.
  • National Healthcareer Association – offers the CCMA (Certified Clinical Medical Assistant)

 


 

Step 3. Consider Your Career Options and Maintain Your Credentials

You’ll need to keep your CMA current by completing one of the following every 5 years:

You should consider joining a professional organization, such as the Maryland Society of Medical Assistants. Professional organizations serve as excellent resources for continuing education opportunities, networking events, and legislative updates affecting the profession.

 

2019 job growth projections from the Maryland Department of Labor 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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