Medical assistants in New Jersey are qualified to work in medical offices and clinics of nearly any size and specialty, and their skillset allows them to perform any number of administrative and clinical duties. You could say they’re the jack-of-all-trades in any medical practice, and their value can’t be overstated. And good news here: the profession is growing by leaps and bounds in the Garden State.
According to projections from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the number of medical assistants will grow by 3.5% between 2019 and 2021.
And thanks in part to the growth of massive healthcare systems like RWJ Barnabas Health, which operates no less than eleven acute care hospitals throughout the state and is home to more than 30,000 employees, New Jersey will see about 2,590 annual openings for medical assistants in the coming years resulting from a combination of retirement, normal attrition and new job creation.
But before you can become part of this flourishing profession, you’ll need to make sure you have the education and training New Jersey’s top healthcare employers expect.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to become a qualified medical assistant in New Jersey:
|Complete an Accredited Medical Assistant Program|
|Pass a Certification Examination|
|Land Your First Medical Assistant Job in New Jersey|
|Maintain Your Medical Assistant Credential|
Step 1. Complete an Accredited Medical Assistant Program
You won’t find any specific licensing laws for medical assistants in New Jersey; however, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners encourages national certification for these allied health professionals.
Your path to national certification as a medical assistant should always begin with the completion of an accredited medical assisting program.
Completing a program that’s accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) not only guarantees that you’ll earn eligibility to take a national certification examination, it also ensures that the program includes the education and practical training necessary for you to serve as a competent, entry-level medical assistant.
To date, there are 5 CAAHEP-accredited programs and 7 ABHES-accredited programs in New Jersey.
The CAAHEP and ABHES accredit certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs. Regardless of which program you choose, you can expect a similar course of education and practical training in medical assisting.
However, while certificate and diploma programs take just 10-12 months to complete, associate degree programs take about 2 years to complete because they also include a general education core. This core curriculum includes study in mathematics, communications, the social sciences, and more.
The associate’s degree has become the degree of choice for both employers and medical assistants and therefore often results in better/more varied job opportunities and increased earning potential. And the Associate of Science (AS) degree is the go-to degree for medical assistants with goals of advancing their education to the bachelor’s level at some point, as most or all of the courses in an AS easily transfer to four-year degrees in healthcare-related areas like healthcare administration, health systems management, health sciences, and more.
Step 2. Pass a Certification Examination
Once you’ve completed an accredited program in medical assisting, you’ll be eligible to take a national certification examination of your choice. The two most widely recognized certifications in medical assisting are:
- American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) – Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
- American Medical Technologists (AMT) – Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
To earn the CMA, you’ll need to take the CMA Certification/Recertification Exam at a Prometric testing center near you. Prometric testing centers in New Jersey include:
- Laurel Spring
To earn the RMA, you’ll need to take the RMA Exam at a Pearson VUE testing center near you. New Jersey testing centers include:
- South Plainfield
Other available certifications in medical assisting include:
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) requirespassing the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Exam (CCMA).
- Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA) through the National Association of Health Professionals (NAHP) requires passing the NRCMA Exam.
- Medical Assistant (NCMA) through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) requires passing the NCMA Exam
Step 3. Pursue a Medical Assistant Job in New Jersey
Once you’ve become a highly qualified candidate through education and national certification, you’re sure to find plenty of professional opportunities through some of New Jersey’s largest healthcare systems, such as:
- AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Pomona/Atlantic City
- Capital Health Medical Center, Pennington/Trenton
- Christ Hospital, Jersey City
- Cooper University Hospital, Camden
- Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Englewood
- Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack
- Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune
- Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch
- Morristown Medical Center, Morristown
- Princeton Medical Center, Plainsboro
- Saint Joseph’s University Medical Center, Paterson
Becoming a member of a professional organization like the New Jersey State Society of AMT or the New Jersey State Society of Medical Assistants, the state chapter of the AAMA, allows you to stay up-to-date on the latest changes to the profession or healthcare industry, qualify for a variety of continuing education opportunities to maintain your national credential, and connect and network with your colleagues through seminars and other events.
Step 4. Maintain Your Medical Assistant Credential
The CMA certification is valid for five years, during which time you must either re-take the certification/recertification exam again or complete 60 continuing education units (CEUs) (with at least half of your total CEUs approved by the AAMA).
You must renew your RMA credential annually and complete 30 certification points every three years through the AMT’s Certification Continuation Program (CCP).
2019 job growth projections from the New Jersey Department of Labor and 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.