How to Become a Medical Assistant in Pennsylvania

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Medical assistants are vital to Pennsylvania’s health care industry. The number of jobs for these medical support personnel is expected to grow much faster than average through at least the coming decade. This is due in large part to two important factors: increasing health care coverage that will dramatically increase the number of people seeking medical services, and a population that is growing increasingly older. Currently, Pennsylvania has one of the highest concentrations of residents aged 65-and-over of any state in the nation.

To find out what it takes to work as a medical assistant in Pennsylvania, review the steps in this guide:

Understand Pennsylvania’s Laws Pertaining to Medical Assistants
Become a Competitive Medical Assistant Job Candidate
Enter Pennsylvania’s Job Market as a Qualified Medical Assistant
Maintain and Improve your Medical Assistant Credentials



Step 1. Understand Pennsylvania’s Laws Pertaining to Medical Assistants

Pennsylvania does not explicitly regulate or license medical assistants. This means each employer determines the minimum employment qualifications for professionals in the field. However, Pennsylvania law does specify conditions with regard to how physicians are allowed to delegate tasks to medical assistants or other healthcare technicians:

  • The delegated task must be within the realm of acceptable medical practice
  • The delegated task must not fall into the purview of another regulated occupation, such as midwife, physician assistant, or athletic trainer
  • The patient must not object to being treated by a medical assistant, and the nature of the treatment must be fully explained
  • No undue risk may be created by delegating tasks to the medical assistant
  • A supervising physician must assume full responsibility for the actions of the medical assistant
  • The supervising physician must know that the medical assistant has sufficient training, experience, and continuing competency to safely perform the delegated task

This last point should be highlighted: physicians must know that you have adequate training as well as experience. This means that when becoming a medical assistant, your primary objective will be to receive adequate training through one or more of the following:

  • Earning a diploma, certificate, or associate’s degree in the field of medical assisting
  • Completing a medical assistant training program
  • Earning nationally-recognized medical assistant certification
  • Gaining experience performing the tasks of a medical assistant
  • Obtaining proof that you are maintaining your education and training



Step 2. Become a Competitive Medical Assistant Job Candidate

One of the most efficient ways to make yourself a competitive candidate for medical assistant jobs in Pennsylvania is to earn a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential. This is often specified as a minimum requirement by employers in Pennsylvania, and is also legally required for employment in many other states.

The Certified Medical Assistant credential is sponsored by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To become a CMA, you will need to take the AAMA’s Certified Medical Assistant Exam.

To be eligible for this exam, you must graduate from a medical assistant academic program that is accredited by one of the following agencies:

There are several dozen such medical assistant schools in Pennsylvania. These include programs offering diplomas, certificates, and associate-level medical assistant degrees.

After completing a program at an accredited school of your choice, you can apply online to take the CMA Exam, which is offered at Prometric testing centers throughout the state:

    • In Philadelphia at 601 Walnut Street
    • In Conshohocken at 100 West Elm Street, Suite 300
    • In Monroeville at 4055 Monroeville Boulevard
    • In Pittsburgh at 5700 Corporate Drive, Suite 400
    • In Allentown at 2211 Mack Boulevard
    • Near Scranton in Clarks Summit at 233 Northern Boulevard, Suite 4
    • In Lancaster at 2064 Fruitville Pike
    • In Harrisburg at 1100 North Mountain Road

The CMA Exam itself is divided into 200 multiple-choice questions that you will be given 160 minutes to complete. Questions are taken from three general subject areas that you will be familiar with by the time you complete your medical assisting program:

    • General subjects
      • Psychology and communication
      • Professionalism
      • Medical law, regulatory guidelines and medical ethics
      • Quality assurance, risk management, and safety
      • Medical terminology


    • Administrative subjects
      • Medical reception and business practices
      • Establishing a patient’s medical record
      • Appointment scheduling and practice finances


  • Clinical subjects
    • Anatomy and physiology
    • Care and patient intake
    • Infection control
    • Pharmacology
    • Assisting with patient preparation
    • Nutrition, health, and emergency first aid
    • Processing and collecting specimens
    • Diagnostic testing



Step 3. Enter Pennsylvania’s Job Market as a Qualified Medical Assistant

Across the State of Pennsylvania there are approximately 24,570 medical assistants providing their valuable services at health care facilities. These professionals are distributed among the state’s cities as follows:

  • 11,140 in the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington area
  • 8,050 in the Philadelphia metropolitan area
  • 5,460 in Pittsburgh
  • 4,200 in the Union-Newark area
  • 1,740 in the Bethlehem-Allentown-Easton area
  • 1,710 in the Harrisburg-Carlisle area
  • 1,120 in the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area
  • 1,090 in the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre area

Medical assistants are concentrated in Pennsylvania’s population centers, however these professionals can also locate employment virtually anywhere medical services are provided.

Just because current state legislation does not require licensure for medical assistants, this does not mean it will not do so in the future. Many states that have not previously had regulations in place concerning the licensure of medical assistants have now passed legislation that requires a formal education and national certification as a condition of licensure. It is important that you keep up with the latest legal developments as they occur in the state, as the national trend is currently moving towards requiring the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential.



Step 4. Maintain and Improve Your Medical Assistant Credentials

Pennsylvania law requires you to maintain your competency to perform the medical assisting tasks you are routinely delegated as determined by your employer. In addition to this legal requirement, you will also need to maintain any credentials that your employer may require. This can involve taking a specific college credit load of relevant classes or attending a prescribed amount of professional development activities.

If you need to maintain your CMA credential you will have to meet an additional set of requirements. You must renew your CMA credential with the AAMA after 60 months by either retaking the CMA Exam or earning 60 re-certification points as follows:

  • A minimum of 10 points relating to clinical duties
  • A minimum of 10 points relating to general duties
  • A minimum of 10 points relating to administrative duties
  • A minimum of 30 points from AAMA-approved continuing education units

Many medical assistants find that earning a bachelor’s degree in the field of medical assisting is a competitive way to maintain CMA requirements as well as demonstrate continuing proficiency. Advancing your education is the best way of demonstrating professional capabilities and a commitment to your field. This can also be a requirement for employment in many of Pennsylvania’s more competitive marketplaces.

Associations such as the Pennsylvania Society of Medical Assistants can provide you with valuable information regarding subjects such as:

  • Professional education and development opportunities
  • Legislative changes as they pertain to the medical assisting field
  • Networking opportunities for professional advancement and employment

The Pennsylvania Society of Medical Assistants is an affiliate organization of the American Association of Medical Assistants. The Society has chapters located throughout Pennsylvania:

  • Allegheny County Chapter
  • Beaver County Chapter
  • Blair County Chapter
  • Cambria County Chapter
  • Erie County Chapter
  • Lancaster County Chapter
  • Lehigh County Chapter
  • Tri-County Chapter

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