How to Become a Medical Assistant in North Carolina

Whether they’re working for internists, gynecologists, optometrists, or dermatologists… in large, multi-physician practices or small clinics… or in large cities or small rural areas, North Carolina’s medical assistants are enjoying a strong job market in a health system that’s going nowhere but up.

According to projections from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the number of medical assistants will increase by an impressive 5.3% between 2019 and 2021 – no doubt due to growth among the state’s leading health systems like Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, which opened its $100 million Women & Children’s Hospital in February 2020 and UNC Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, which broke ground on a new 50-bed hospital in Holly Hills in 2019 and is set to open a $65 million cancer center in 2021.

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North Carolina should see about 2,600 job openings annually as a result of retirements, natural job turnover, and new job growth, so now may be the ideal time to go from dreaming to doing and earn the education and training you’ll need to attract the attention of the state’s leading healthcare employers.

Follow these steps to become a well-qualified medical assistant in North Carolina:

Pursue an Accredited Medical Assistant Program
Earn National Certification
Find a Job in Medical Assisting You’ll Love
Maintain Your Professional Credential

Medical assistants in North Carolina are not required to be licensed, earn a specific education, or complete a prescribed training regimen. However, employers pick up where state regulations leave off so you can expect today’s top employers to hire only those candidates who have completed a formal medical assisting program and national certification.



Step 1. Pursue an Accredited Medical Assistant Program

The best, first step to a successful career begins with an accredited medical assisting program.

Choosing a medical assistant program that’s accredited by either the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) ensures that you’ll be prepared to serve as a competent, entry-level medical assistant and guarantees your eligibility for national certification.

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Both CAAHEP and ABHES accredit diploma, certificate, and associate degree programs. You can expect these programs to include a similar course of education and practical training in medical assisting, with core coursework that includes:

  • Clinical office procedures
  • Anatomy and physiology – body structures, organs, and systems
  • Math for health care professionals
  • Medical office procedures
  • Pathophysiology
  • Medical insurance applications
  • Medical law and ethics
  • Medical assistant administrative procedures

However, while certificate and diploma programs take only about 10-12 months to complete and focus almost exclusively on these core courses, two-year associate degree programs also include a general education curriculum– a set of courses that includes mathematics, the physical sciences, the social sciences, communications, and more.

The associate degree has become the go-to degree among medical assistants because it often results in better and more varied professional opportunities and higher wages. It’s often the preferred degree among employers because it produces well-rounded medical assistants with stronger written and verbal communication skills – a plus when dealing with the administrative end of medical assisting.

The Associate of Science (AS) is the degree of choice among medical assistants with an eye on advancing their education in the future, as most or all of the courses of the AS easily transfer to bachelor’s degrees in related fields like healthcare administration, public health or in other allied health professions.



Step 2. Earn National Certification

National certification has become a popular pursuit among medical assistants because it is the ideal way to display a commitment to the profession and to continuing education and a great way to get a leg up on the competition when it comes time to land a job or earn a promotion.

The CMA credential through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) is the most popular credential in medical assisting. You’ll earn eligibility by completing an accredited medical assisting program, and you’ll be required to pass the Certified Medical Assistant Exam.

You’ll apply online to take the CMA Exam, which tests your knowledge in the following areas:

  • General subjects
    • Communication and psychology
    • Professionalism, medical law, ethics, and regulatory guidelines
    • Quality assurance, risk management, and safety
    • Medical terminology
  • Administrative subjects
    • Medical reception and appointment scheduling
    • Medical business practices
    • Patient medical records
    • Practice finances
  • Clinical subjects
    • Anatomy and physiology
    • Patient care, intake, and documentation
    • Infection control and sterile procedures
    • Patient preparation
    • Processing and collecting specimens
    • Diagnostic testing
    • Emergency procedures
    • Pharmacology

While the CMA remains the most widely pursued credential in medical assisting, it’s not the only one:



Step 3. Find a Job in Medical Assisting You’ll Love

You’ll be able to hit the ground running and snag a job once you’ve got a resume that includes the completion of both a formal medical assisting program and national certification. You can begin your job search by checking out the opportunities available through some of the state’s largest healthcare systems:

  • Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte
  • Duke University Hospital, Durham
  • UNC Medical Center, Chapel Hill
  • Vidant Medical Center, Greenville
  • Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center, Winston-Salem



Step 4. Maintain Your Professional Credentials

A national credential in medical assisting requires maintenance and renewal:

  • To maintain the CMA credential, you must either retake the CMA Exam or earn 60 re-certification points, including at least 30 points from AAMA-approved continuing education units, during each 5-year renewal period.
  • To maintain the RMA credential, you must earn at least 30 Certification Continuing Program (CCP) points every three years and maintain an annual membership with RMA.
  • To maintain the CCMA credential, you must earn at least 10 Continuing Education (CE) credits every two years.
  • To maintain the NRCMA credential, you must have a valid CPR certification, renew your membership annually with the NAHP, and earn at least two A class Continuing Education Units (CEUs) each year, except during the first renewal period.
  • To maintain an NCMA credential, you must complete a series of annual Continuing Education (CE) approved by the NCCT.
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It’s always a good idea to stay up-to-date on continuing education, professional development, employment, and changing legislation issues in North Carolina through membership in a professional association like the North Carolina State Society of Medical Assistants (NCSMA), the state chapter of the AAMA.


2019 job growth projections from the North Carolina Department of Commerce 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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