How to Become a Medical Assistant in Massachusetts

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The healthcare system in Massachusetts is definitely embracing the ‘bigger is better’ strategy, and some of the hospital systems here – like Mass General Brigham, which employs no less than 75,000 workers and includes more than a dozen hospitals in Salem, Newton, and Northampton – are leading this charge. Here, five-year strategic goals include innovations in diagnostic, therapeutics, and devices and a renewed focus on primary care, secondary care, and behavioral health.

It’s this type of focused growth that’s resulted in more opportunities than ever for the medical assistants who keep the state’s health systems running smoothly. Between 2019 and 2021 alone, the number of medical assistants in Massachusetts will grow by 2.1%, according to projections from the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance.

And with retirements, normal turnover in the job market, and new job growth all playing a part, there will be about 1,710 annual openings for MAs in the state for the foreseeable future, which leaves the door wide open for aspiring medical assistants like you to get your foot in the door.

If you want to become part of the exciting medical assistant profession in Massachusetts, here are the steps you’ll need to take:

Complete Medical Assistant Training Program
Earn National Certification
Find a Medical Assistant Job You’ll Love

 


 

Step 1. Complete a Massachusetts Medical Assistant Education Program

Although Massachusetts state law does not stipulate specific education requirements for medical assistants, you’ll find that the vast majority of healthcare employers in the state require candidates whose resume includes both a formal course of education and national certification.

Your first step on the road to becoming a medical assistant should be the completion of a formal program in medical assisting that’s accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

By choosing a CAAHEP- or ABHES- accredited program, you’re guaranteed that the program provides you with the skills and knowledge you’ll need to practice as a competent, entry-level MA. You’re also guaranteed to meet the eligibility requirements for national certification.

Medical assistant programs may be designed as certificate, diploma, or associate degree programs and all feature a similar course of education in medical assisting that includes an internship in a real-world setting and coursework in areas such as:

  • Medical terminology
  • Medical assisting lab procedures
  • Medical assisting clinical procedures
  • Medical legal concepts, practices, and ethics

In Massachusetts, there are 11 CAAHEP-accredited programs located in cities such as:

    • Lowell
    • Danvers
    • Lawrence
    • North Adams
    • Greenfield
    • Worcester
    • Fall River

There are 4 ABHES-accredited programs located in:

    • Pittsfield
    • Mansfield
    • Chicopee
    • Worcester

These, and many other programs based in neighboring states, are also available online.

Whereas diploma and certificate programs take about 10-12 months to complete, an associate’s degree takes about 2 years because it also comes with a general education core.

An associate’s degree may feature a longer course of study, but it’s still the program of choice among aspiring medical assistants and a common preference among healthcare employers in Maryland.

Because an associate’s degree produces more well-rounded medical assistants, thanks to courses that sharpen analytical, verbal communications, and written communication skills, medical assistants with an associate’s degree often enjoy better/more job opportunities and higher wages.

And an Associate of Science (AS) in Medical Assisting is the degree of choice among medical assistants with plans to advance their education to the bachelor’s level at some point, as most or all of the courses of an AS easily transfer to bachelor’s degrees in areas like allied health sciences, healthcare administration, and more. Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees are also widely available, the only difference being that they are strictly designed as career training programs so they don’t typically work as transfer degrees if you’re considering a bachelor’s later on.

 


 

Step 2. Earn National Certification

A national designation in medical assisting is your opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition and make yourself an attractive candidate when it comes time to land a job.

The two most widely recognized credentials for medical assistants are:

The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA): Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

You’ll qualify to take the CMA examination by completing a program that’s been accredited by the CAAHEP or ABHES, or a non-accredited program that is determined to be every bit the equal of one that holds accreditation. You’ll be able to take the exam up to 90 days before you graduate from your medical assisting program.

After you apply to take the CMA, you’ll receive a scheduling permit from the AAMA, at which time you can schedule your exam appointment at a Prometric testing center near you:

  • Boston
  • Burlington
  • Lowell
  • Worcester
  • West Springfield
  • Brockton

American Medical Technologist’s (AMT): Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) 

You’ll qualify to take the RMA exam by completing a medical assisting program that’s approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education, which is something that applies to every reputable program out there. The program must consist of at least 720 program clock hours in medical assisting and must include a clinical externship of at least 160 hours within the past 4 years. You may also qualify by completing a formal medical services training program through the U.S. Armed Forces.

The RMA examination is taken through Pearson Vue Testing Centers. Schedule your examination through Pearson VUE as soon as you meet the requirements so you can select your preferred test time, date, and location.

While the CMA and RMA are the most recognized credential, it’s certainly not the only one. Other options for national certification include:

 


 

Step 3. Find a Medical Assistant Job You’ll Love

Congratulations! You’ve achieved the education and national certification necessary to place you among the profession’s most highly qualified. When it comes time to look for a job, you can start your search by checking out opportunities available through some of the state’s leading health systems:

  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • UMass Memorial Medical Center, Worcester
  • Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston
  • Tufts Medical Center, Boston
  • Signature Healthcare, Brockton
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston
  • Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, Burlington
  • Baystate Medical Center, Springfield

Consider joining a professional organization like the Massachusetts Society of Medical Assistants, the state chapter of the AAMA. Professional associations are great resources for continuing education opportunities to keep your national certification current, networking opportunities, and the latest news on changes to the profession.

 

2019 job growth projections from the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance 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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