How to Become a Medical Assistant in South Carolina

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The most recent estimate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics rates projected job growth in the filed of medical assisting to be much faster than average. The demand for services provided by medical assistants in South Carolina will only increase as the state’s population continues to age, and residents gain more access to medical services.

South Carolina’s legislature has adopted specific guidelines that regulate the types of activities that may be performed by medical assistants in the state. Follow these steps to learn how to become a medical assistant in South Carolina:

Learn the Requirements to Become a Medical Assistant in South Carolina
Become a Qualified and Competitive Medical Assistant
Maintain and Improve Your Medical Assistant Qualifications
Pursue a Medical Assistant Job in South Carolina



Step 1. Learn the Requirements to Become a Medical Assistant in South Carolina

South Carolina’s 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

This is the extent to which the minimum legal requirements govern medical assistants. Under South Carolina law, medical assistants are defined as being unlicensed personnel.

However the minimum requirements for employment as a medical assistant as determined by individual health care providers can often be more stringent than the minimum legal requirements. Many of those who employ medical assistants require them to have qualifications such as:

  • Graduation from a medical assistant certification program
  • Nationally recognized medical assisting credentials
  • Associate’s of science degree focusing on medical assisting or the health care sciences
  • Bachelor’s of science degree with a concentration in medical assisting and the health care sciences
  • Advanced academic degrees in the field of medical sciences

Each employer can establish a medical assistant job description based on the needs of the facility. This means it is up to you to check with your prospective employer on the specific qualifications.

What Employers Are Looking For

Recent randomly sampled job announcements seeking medical assistants in South Carolina specified the following requirements for employment:

  • A medical assistant job at a Charleston heart specialist clinic was seeking a professional with at least one year of experience who also graduated from a medical assisting training program
  • A position with an advanced center for internal medicine in Charleston also stated a preference for medical assistants who had at least one year of experience and who had graduated from a medical assisting training program
  • A medical assistant position with the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Columbia required one of the following:

    • Six months of work experience in a clerical office or other relevant setting
    • At least one year of college education, with more years of college translating to the possibility of a more advanced rank and pay level
    • A combination of relevant education and experience

  • A medical assistant position with Palmetto Health in Columbia required an associate’s degree in medical assisting or an equivalent amount of experience, in addition to accepting a CMA credential as meeting additional requirements
  • A medical assistant position at an OBGYN practice in Mount Pleasant stated a preference for applicants holding a CMA, and had requirements that included:

    • Completion of a medical assistant academic training program
    • At least one year of experience in a medical office environment

  • A medical office in Rock Hill recently posted an employment ad seeking a medical assistant who had completed a medical assistant program and had at least one year of experience working in a medical office; a preference was also stated for candidates who possessed a CMA credential



Step 2. Become a Qualified and Competitive Medical Assistant

One of the best and most efficient ways to qualify for medical assistant jobs in South Carolina is to earn a degree in the field. A medical assistant degree program will include the study of subjects such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Communication for health care professionals
  • Medical terminology
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical coding and insurance fundamentals
  • Electronic medical office administrative software programs
  • Creating and processing professional documents
  • Professional career development and planning
  • Practicum or internship in medical assisting

There are a number of medical assistant schools and medical assistant training programs located throughout South Carolina, offering credentials in the form of certifications, diplomas, and degrees. Graduating from one of these academic programs will make you a more qualified and competitive candidate, as well as open up additional career development opportunities.

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

The CMA credential demonstrates that you have proven yourself to be a knowledgeable professional as determined by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), the sponsoring agency of the CMA. To earn the CMA designation you will need to meet the following two requirements:

  • Graduate from a medical assistant academic program that is accredited by either:

The CMA Exam is made up of 200 multiple-choice questions for which you will have 160 minutes to complete. Questions are drawn from three main subject areas:

  • General subjects
  • Administrative subjects
  • Clinical subjects

You can register online to take the exam at Prometric testing centers across South Carolina:

  • In Columbia at 121 Executive Center Drive, Suite 144
  • In Rock Hill at 452 Lakeshore Parkway, Suite 10
  • In Florence at 2141 C Hoffmeyer Road
  • In Charleston at 1954 Ashley River Road, Suite G
  • In Greenville at 37 Villa Road, Suite 309



Step 3. Maintain and Improve Your Medical Assistant Qualifications

Medical assistants will need to communicate with their employer to find out any requirements for maintaining continuing professional education.

If you need to maintain your CMA credential you will need to complete either of the following before your CMA expires after 60 months:

  • Retake the CMA Exam
  • Earn 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

One way to earn CMA continuing education points and at the same time improve your professional qualifications is to earn a higher academic degree in the medical sciences field. Earning a bachelor’s degree that focuses on medical assisting and the medical sciences can open up additional employment opportunities, while having an advanced degree in this field can further your career potential. Prospective doctors and nurses in South Carolina can start their careers as medical assistants and work their way to the top of their profession.



Step 4. Pursue a Medical Assistant Job in South Carolina

The most recent statistics show that currently, across South Carolina, there are 8,600 professionals employed as medical assistants. This breaks down regionally as follows:

  • 2,470 in the Rock Hill regional metropolitan area
  • 2,190 in the Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville metropolitan area
  • 1,690 in the Greenville-Mauldin-Easley greater metropolitan area
  • 1,570 in Columbia
  • 1,020 in the Richmond County regional metropolitan area
  • 460 in Spartanburg
  • 350 in the Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach greater metropolitan area
  • 290 in Florence
  • 270 in Anderson
  • 170 in Sumter

Some of the largest employers of medical professionals throughout the state include:

  • 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
  • Musc Medical Center in Charleston
  • Greenville Memorial Medical Center
  • Roper Hospital in Charleston

You may also consider affiliating yourself with some of the state’s professional associations, such as the South Carolina Society of Medical Assistants (SCSMA). The SCSMA can offer you resources regarding legislative changes pertaining to medical assistants, professional development or education options, and employment opportunities. The Association is comprised of several chapters located throughout the state:

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

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