How to Become a Medical Assistant in Virginia

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Ultimately, employers will determine the requirements and preferences for medical assistant jobs in Virginia.

However, the following steps will address these circumstances as well as how to make yourself a competitive and qualified medical assistant in Virginia:

Become a Qualified Medical Assistant Through Education and Certification
Learn About the Medical Assistant Job Market in Virginia
Maintain and Improve Your Medical Assistant Qualifications

As you research how to become a medical assistant in Virginia, it is important to take note of what state law specifies in terms of the scope of practice for medical assistants and the delegation of duties:

Any medical practitioner who is licensed or certified by the Virginia Board of Medicine may delegate activities to a medical assistant if:

  • The activities or functions are non-discretionary, i.e., they do not fall under the purview of another licensed occupation
  • The activities do not require professional judgment
  • The activities are of the type that are usually delegated to medical assistants

Medical assistants are also authorized to administer controlled substances to patients if they have been properly trained to do this, provided that the administration of such does not involve:

  • Intravenous methods
  • Intrathecal methods – methods involving administration of controlled substances directly to areas around the brain or spinal cord
  • Epidural methods

As you search for medical assistant jobs in Virginia, you will also notice that although not mandated by legislation, many employers require prospective medical assistants to have at least one of the following qualifications:

  • Possess a medical assistant degree, diploma or certificate
  • Holds national certification:
    • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
    • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
    • Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA)

Although medical assistants in Virginia are not regulated through a licensing body, these professionals can only perform their duties under specific circumstances.



Step 1. Become a Qualified Medical Assistant Through Education and Certification

The first step you can take towards becoming a qualified medical assistant is to enroll in a certificate or associate degree level training program. Graduating from a medical assistant school in Virginia that is accredited by one of the following agencies will ensure you are eligible for national certification:

  • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)

In addition to online opportunities, there are at least nine medical assistant schools in Virginia that are accredited by one or both of these agencies, located in these cities:

  • Charlottesville
  • Danville
  • Harrisonburg
  • Lynchburg
  • Martinsville
  • Salem
  • Virginia Beach
  • Richmond

Participating in a medical assistant program will mean taking classes that include:

  • Medical terminology and anatomy
  • Medical terminology and physiology
  • Clinical medical assistant procedures
  • Medical assistant office procedures
  • CPR and first aid for infants, children and adults, incuding the use of an AED
  • Ethics and law in the medical office
  • Medical insurance billing and coding
  • Medical assisting and pharmacology
  • Medical assisting computer software programs
  • Managing an electronic health record
  • Medical assistant field internship or practicum

Once you have gradutated from a program that is accredited by CAAHEP or ABHES you will be qualified to pursue a CMA, RMA, or NRCMA credential:

  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) – sponsored by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To earn a CMA you will need to pass the Certified Medical Assistant Exam. You can register online to take this exam, for which you will have 160 minutes to complete 200 multiple-choice questions covering three basic subjects:

    • Medical assisting clinical subjects
    • Medical assisting administrative subjects
    • Medical assisting general subjects

  • Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA) – sponsored by the National Association of Health Professionals (NAHP). Becoming eligible for the CMA credential will also make you eligible for the NRCMA credential. To obtain this you will also need to pass an examination, a process you can start by filling out an application form.



Step 2. Learn About the Medical Assistant Job Market in Virginia

Medical assistants throughout Virginia can be found working wherever medical or health services are offered, and are concentrated in the following urban centers:

  • 6,140 in the Arlington-Alexandria-DC greater metropolitan area
  • 2,860 in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News greater metropolitan area
  • 1,950 in Richmond
  • 630 in the greater Bristol metropolitan area
  • 430 in Roanoke
  • 310 in Charlottesville
  • 300 in Lynchburg
  • 200 in the Winchester area
  • 170 in the Blacksburg-Christianburg-Radford area
  • 160 in Harrisonburg
  • 110 in Danville

Professional organizations such as the Virginia Society of Medical Assistants (VSMA) can provide you with additional information regarding subjects such as:

  • Upcoming education and professional development activities
  • Job and networking opportunities
  • Changes in legislation regarding the medical assistant profession

Because there are no specific licensing regulations for medical assistants in Virginia, a good way of feeling out the necessary qualifications for employment is to look at some of the most recent employment opportunities offered at locations throughout the state:

  • A Patient First Neighborhood Medical Center in Richmond recently posted an add seeking a medical assistant who as at least 18 years of age with a high school education. The ad also stated a preference for hiring candidates who had at least one year of experience working in a hospital or physician’s office.
  • Riverside Health Care System in Newport News was recently looking to hire a medical assistant who had at minimum graduated from a medical assistant training program. The organization also stated a strong preference for candidates with a CMA credential.
  • Virginia Cancer Specialists in Gainesville was recently seeking a candidate who possessed the following minimum qualifications:
    • Current CPR certification
    • At least three years of relevant work experience
    • A current and valid certificate in the field of medical assisting



Step 3. Maintain and Improve Your Medical Assistant Qualifications

Your employer will determine any continuing education or professional development requirements you must achieve throughout your tenure as a medical assistant. If you need to maintain a national certification such as a CMA, RMA, or NRCMA you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • CMA – valid for 60 months, and to renew you must fulfill one of the following:

    • Earn 60 re-certification points with at least 30 of these being AAMA-approved
    • Retake the CMA Exam

  • NRCMA – maintain a valid and current CPR card, plus pay a yearly membership fee to the NAHP. You will also need to complete at least two A Class Continuing Education Units (CEUs) annually, except during your first renewal.

As you take note of the maintenance requirements for these certifications it is also worth considering additional education. Medical assisting college courses fulfill renewal requirements for all three of these certifications, and earning a higher degree in the field of medical sciences can also qualify you for more advanced positions. A bachelor’s degree can open the door for more specialized degrees as well as make you a stronger candidate in Virginia’s most competitive markets.

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