How to Become a Medical Assistant in North Carolina

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You can become a well-qualified medical assistant in North Carolina by following these steps:

Pursue a Medical Assistant Education
Learn About the Different Types of Medical Assistant Certifications
Research North Carolina’s Job Market
Maintain Your Professional Credential

Each day North Carolina relies on approximately 13,890 medical assistants to provide their valuable services at health and medical facilities across the state. In a profession that is expected to grow much faster than average through at least the next decade, medical assistants in North Carolina are relatively free to practice as their supervisors see fit.

According to state law, licensed physicians in North Carolina are permitted to delegate to qualified medical assistants those tasks that are permitted by law and that have become commonplace through custom.

Medical assistants in North Carolina are not required to be licensed, earn a specific education, or complete a prescribed training regimen. However in North Carolina the private sector picks up where state regulations leave off. Although medical assistant qualification requirements are not written into law, they are often specified by employers and commonly include:

  • Graduation from a medical assistant training program in North Carolina
  • Holding a medical assistant degree from an accredited medical assistant school in North Carolina
  • Having a professional medical assistant certification
  • Having previous work experience as a medical assistant



Step 1. Pursue a Medical Assistant Education

Education is the basic starting point if you intend to advance your career as a medical assistant or go on to higher-level jobs in the medical field. There are a variety of medical assistant schools in North Carolina and online that offer relevant certificate and associate-level programs.

To allow yourself the most options for future certifications, you may choose a school that is accredited by a state or national organization. Some medical assistant certifications are only available to candidates who have graduated from a school that is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

The medical assistant academic program you choose will include courses such as these:

  • Clinical office procedures
  • Anatomy and physiology – body structures, organs, and systems
  • Math for health care professionals
  • Medical office procedures
  • Pathophysiology
  • Medical insurance applications
  • Pharmacology and drug administration
  • Medical law and ethics
  • Medial laboratory procedures
  • Communications and business English
  • Medical assistant administrative procedures



Step 2. Learn About the Different Types of Medical Assistant Certifications

There are a variety of national medical assistant certification options. These each offer their own professional credential for prospective medical assistants who want to improve their qualifications:

The CMA credential is sponsored by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and available to eligible candidates. To become eligible for this you need to accomplish two things:

You can apply online to take the CMA Exam, which is made up of 200 multiple-choice questions that must be completed in 160 minutes. These are taken from the following categories:

  • 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

In addition to the CMA credential there are several other certifications offered by a variety of national organizations:

To become eligible for these professional credentials you will typically need to pass an examiniation offered by each respective agency, as well as qualify for this through one of the following routes:

  • By completing an accredited medical assistant education program
  • By having several years of experience working as a medical assistant or medical assistant instructor
  • By working as the equivalent of a medical assistant in the US Military
  • By earning another agency’s medical assistant certification credential



Step 3. Research North Carolina’s Job Market

Browsing current job announcements is perhaps the best way of knowing the qualifications employers are looking for in a medical assistant. A recent survey of these taken from locations across the state revealed the following:

  • Novant Health Durham Internal Medicine Associates recently posted a medical assistant job description seeking a candidate with the following minimum qualifications:

    • High school diploma
    • Basic Life Support (BLS) and CPR certification
    • Either a CMA or RMA professional medical assistant credential

  • Duke University Health System at Chapel Hill was recently seeking a medical assistant who held a professional credential through the AAMA or AMT.
  • Tenet Healthcare in Hickory was recently looking for a medical assistant who had at minimum completed a medical assistant training program. The ad specified that candidates with a CMA credential would be preferred for hire.
  • Rex Healthcare in Raleigh recently posted an ad seeking a medical assistant who at minimum had graduated from a medical assistant training program. The candidate must also have a CMA credential as well as Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS) certification.
  • Mebane Primary Care was recently looking for a medical assistant with the following minimum qualifications:

    • 1-2 years of previous clinical experience
    • Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification
    • Either a CMA or RMA medical assistant certification

As you review the qualifications for medical assistant jobs in North Carolina consider the distribution of these professionals throughout the state:

  • 2,470 medical assistants in the Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill metropolitan area
  • 1,780 medical assistants in the Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area
  • 1,210 medical assistants in the Greensboro-High Point area
  • 1,090 medical assistants in Asheville
  • 1,070 medical assistants in the Durham-Chapel Hill area
  • 870 medical assistants in the Winston-Salem area
  • 770 medical assistants in Wilmington
  • 590 medical assistants in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morgantown area



Step 4. Maintain Your Professional Credentials

If you need to maintain a professional medical assistant certification you will need to follow the requirements set forth by the sponsoring agency, such as:

  • To maintain an RMA credential you need to earn at least 30 Certification Continuing Program (CCP) points every three years and maintain an annual membership with RMA.
  • To maintain a CCMA credential you will need to earn at least 10 Continuing Education (CE) credits every two years.
  • To maintain an NRCMA credential you must have a valid CPR certification and annually renew your membership with the NAHP. You also need to earn at least two A class Continuing Education Units (CEUs) each year, except during the first renewal period.
  • To maintain an NCMA credential you will need to complete a series of annual Continuing Education (CE) that is approved by the NCCT.

As you research medical assistant careers in North Carolina you can find additional resources with the sponsoring agencies of professional certifications. These can offer information about continuing education, professional development, employment, and changing legislation in North Carolina. One such organization is the North Carolina State Society of Medical Assistants (NCSMA), a local affiliate of the AAMA.

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