How to Become a Medical Assistant in South Carolina

From the state’s smallest rural clinics to the largest physician-led practices, South Carolina’s medical assistants are the reliable support professionals the healthcare industry has come to rely on to keep independent practices, clinics, urgent care centers, and more running smoothly.

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And in South Carolina, their numbers keep growing, thanks to a healthcare sector that’s driven by the expansion of major systems like Prisma Health (a merger between Greenville Health System and Palmetto Health), which is now home to no less than 30,000+ employees and six, major hospitals.

In fact, according to forecasts from the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, the number of medical assistants will grow by 5% during the few, short years between 2019 and 2021.

This type of growth means you’ll enter a strong job market when you graduate with the education and training it takes to make your way in the field.

Here are the steps to take to put you on the road to a successful career in medical assisting:

Complete an Accredited Medical Assisting Program
Earn a National Credential in Medical Assisting
Maintain Your Medical Assistant Certification
Explore Your Job Prospects in South Carolina

South Carolina’s legislature has adopted specific guidelines that regulate the types of activities that may be performed by medical assistants in the state.

South Carolina law allows physicians to delegate tasks to medical assistants according to the following criteria:

  • Duties delegated to a medical assistant must be done so directly by a physician and on one else
  • Delegated duties must be of a routine nature that do not require a specially-licensed professional and that would not involve significant risk to a patient if mistakes were made
  • When tasks are delegated to a medical assistant, the delegating physician must be immediately available for assistance if needed, and therefore must be in close proximity
  • Medical assistants must wear a clearly visible badge that identifies their name and position



Step 1. Complete an Accredited Medical Assisting Program

You won’t find any better preparation for a career in medical assisting than 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).

Accredited programs must meet specific curriculum and practical training requirements, so by choosing an accredited program, you’re guaranteed to meet the eligibility requirements for national certification.

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Both the CAAHEP and the ABHES accredit certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs, all of which feature a similar course of study in medical assisting that includes an internship/field experience designed to facilitate the transition from the classroom to the real world.

However, while certificate and diploma programs take just 10-12 months to complete, associate degree programs take 2 years to complete because they also include a general education core – a set of courses in the social sciences, the physical sciences, English, mathematics and more.

Despite this longer course of study, the associate degree has become the degree of choice among employers because it produces well-rounded medical assistants with stronger analytical and communication skills, and among medical assistants because it results in better professional opportunities and higher wages.

And the Associate of Science (AS) degree is ideal for medical assistants with goals of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the future because most or all of the courses of an AS easily transfer to a four-year degree in a healthcare-related field.



Step 2. Earn a National Credential in Medical Assisting

There are a number of national credentials in medical assisting, all of which allow you to display your commitment to the profession and to continued education. Earn national certification and you’ll position yourself among the state’s most qualified medical assistants.

The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) remains the most popular credential in medical assisting. You’ll qualify to take the Certified Medical Assistant Exam after you complete an accredited medical assisting program.

The CMA exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions covering the following areas:

  • General subjects
  • Administrative subjects
  • Clinical subjects

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

  • Columbia
  • Florence
  • Charleston
  • Greenville



Step 3. Maintain Your Medical Assistant Certification

You’ll need to maintain and renew the CMA credential every five years by completing one of the following:

  • Retaking the CMA Exam
  • Earning 60 re-certification points including the following:
    • At least 10 points relating to administrative duties
    • At least 10 points relating to general duties
    • At least 10 points relating to clinical duties
    • At least 30 points from AAMA-approved continuing education units


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Step 4. Explore Your Job Prospects in South Carolina

Now that your resume includes the education and national certification that position you among the most-qualified, you can begin your job search with gusto. You’ll find outstanding opportunities through some of the state’s largest healthcare systems, such as:

  • AnMed Health in Anderson
  • Spartanburg Regional Medical Center
  • Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston
  • McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence
  • Bon Secours Saint Francis Hospital in Charleston
  • Greenville Memorial Medical Center
  • Roper Hospital in Charleston

Becoming a member of a professional association like the South Carolina Society of Medical Assistants (SCSMA) is a great way to stay on top of any legislative changes pertaining to medical assistants, find professional development/education options to maintain your national certification, and take part in networking events.

You can participate in the SCSMA through one of the state’s chapters:

  • Aiken
  • Anderson
  • Charleston
  • Columbia
  • Greenville
  • Pickens
  • Spartanburg
  • Trident


2019 job growth projections from the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce 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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