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In most states, you can become a medical assistant, or MA, simply by finding a physician who is willing to hire and train you. However, many employers prefer MAs who have been trained in a formal program, which may take one to two years. Certificate programs, typically offered by technical-vocational schools, generally last one year. Some programs in community colleges and universities offer an associate degree or diploma and take two years to complete.
The Basics of Medical Assisting
Most states do not have specific educational requirements for medical assistants. Formal programs, however, are typically accredited. Certification is not required to practice, but some certifying agencies require the MA to graduate from an accredited program. Some MAs are trained only in administrative duties, such as scheduling appointments, billing and office management. Others are trained in clinical tasks, such as giving medications and assisting the doctor. MAs can also be trained in both clinical and administrative tasks. In addition to general practice, MAs may specialize in podiatry, ophthalmic and optometric medical assisting. In a specialty practice, an MA might also take on additional tasks. An MA in a podiatry office might apply casts, while an ophthalmic MA could assist the doctor in surgery.
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