How to Become a Medical Assistant in NY

Job growth among New York’s medical assistants is downright impressive, thanks to a healthcare sector that continues to drive the state’s economy. That means whether they’re lending their talents to a small-town clinic or ambulatory care center or working in one of NYC’s major healthcare systems like New York-Presbyterian Hospital, which was ranked first in the state and fifth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in 2019, there’s plenty of room to grow in the Empire State.

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And recent stats by the New York State Department of Labor reveal the excellent opportunities that lie ahead. In fact, the number of medical assistants will grow by 4.4% in just the short period between 2019 and 2021, and the profession will see about 28,190 annual openings—the result of retirements, natural job turnover, and new job growth— in the coming years.

Build a solid resume by completing a formal medical assisting program and earning national certification and you’ll be ready to joint the ranks of New York’s most qualified medical assistants.

Here are the steps you’ll need to take to get you there:

Complete a New York Medical Assistant Education Program
Earn National Certification
Explore Your Career Options and Keep Your Credentials Current

The New York State Board of Medicine outlines some of the duties that medical assistants may and may not perform as unlicensed healthcare professionals. The Board notes that all unlicensed medical assistants must be supervised at all times by the licensed healthcare practitioners that delegate tasks to them.

New York medical assistants may perform the following duties:

  • Assist a licensed practitioner to carry out a task (such as positioning a patient for bandaging)
  • Take laboratory specimens such as blood work
  • Perform ECGs
  • Measure vital signs
  • Administrative work such as billing or medical records

Medical assistants in New York may NOT:

  • First assist in surgical procedures
  • Apply casts
  • Take x-rays
  • Independently position patients for x-rays
  • Place or remove sutures
  • Administer contrast dyes or injections
  • Administer medications
  • Triage



Step 1. Complete a New York Medical Assistant Education Program

Without a course of formal education and training under your belt, you’ll have a hard time breaking into the competitive medical assisting profession.

The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are the two national accrediting agencies in medical assisting. They accredit diploma, certificate, and associate degree programs in medical assisting.

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Choosing an accredited program ensures that you’re eligible for earn national certification and that you’re prepared to serve as competent, entry-level medical assistant.

There are currently 11 CAAHEP-accredited programs in New York, which are located in cities such as:

  • New York
  • Buffalo
  • Binghamton
  • Poughkeepsie
  • Forest Hills
  • Rochester
  • Williamsville

There are currently 8 ABHES-accredited programs in New York, which are located in cities such as:

  • New York
  • Jamaica
  • Staten Island
  • Brooklyn
  • New Rochelle

Accredited certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs feature a similar course of education and practical training, and all include courses such as:

  • Medical Law and Ethics
  • Medical Administrative Practice
  • Medical Terminology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Clinical Office Procedures
  • Coding, Classification and Reimbursement Systems
  • Electronic Medical Records
  • Medical Documentation
  • Professionalism in the Medical Office

But while certificate and diploma programs take just 10-12 months to complete, an associate’s degree program takes 2 years to complete because it also include a general education core – a set of courses covering the social sciences, the physical sciences, verbal and written communications, and more.

Despite this longer course of study, an associate’s degree has become the degree of choice among both employers and medical assistants. Employers prefer this degree because it produces well-rounded medical assistants with stronger written and verbal skills, while medical assistants prefer the associate’s degree because it often translates into better/more varied professional opportunities and higher wages.

And the Associate of Science (AS) degree is the chosen degree for medical assistants who want to advance their education to the bachelor’s level at some point because most or all of the courses in the AS transfer to a bachelor’s degree.



Step 2. Earn National Certification

National certification isn’t a requirement to practice as a medical assistant, but that hasn’t stopped groups like the New York State Society of Medical Assistants from recommending the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).

To earn the CMA, you must pass the CMA Certification/Recertification Exam, which tests your knowledge of:

  • General medical knowledge, such as:
    • Anatomy
    • Physiology
    • Terminology
    • Medical law and ethics
    • Behavioral science
  • Clinical knowledge, such as:
    • Preparing and administering medications
    • Examination room techniques
    • Pharmacology
    • Laboratory Procedures
  • Administrative knowledge, such as:
    • Collections
    • Medical records management
    • Insurance processing

You’ll take the CMA exam at a Prometric testing center near you. In New York, there are testing centers located in:

  • Queens
  • New York
  • Brooklyn
  • Westbury
  • Purchase
  • Melville
  • Poughkeepsie

While the CMA is the most widely sought credential in New York, there are a number of other national certifications in medical assisting available:



Step 3. Explore Your Career Options and Keep Your Credentials Current

Your CMA credential is valid for 5 years. At the end of this renewal period, you have the option of either re-taking the recertification/certification exam or completing 60 continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain your credential. Consult the AAMA continuing education website for more information.

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Becoming a member in the New York State Society of Medical Assistants is your opportunity to connect with your colleagues, participate in continuing education courses and events, and stay up-to-date on the latest changes to the profession.

When it comes to putting that hard-earned education and national credential to use, you’ll find many opportunities through some of New York’s top health systems:

  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, NYC
  • Montefiore Hospital – Moses, Bronx
  • Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, NYC
  • New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NYC
  • North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset
  • NYU Langhorne Tisch Hospital, NYC
  • Stony Brook University Hospital, Stony Brook
  • Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester


2019 job growth projections from the New York State 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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