The medical assistant field is a fast-growing career option with a decent salary, and it is not as difficult to get your foot in the door as you might think. It is not necessary to go to a medical assistant school, because many other technical schools offer programs to become a medical assistant. It is also very rewarding to become a medical assistant, because you will be able to help people in a one-on-one way.
Before starting down the medical assistant path, first decide if the job is right for you. Besides clinical duties, medical assistants working in smaller practices may have clerical duties as well, such as paperwork and answering phones. In any case, medical assistants can expect to interview patients, prepare them for exams with the doctor, draw blood, call in prescriptions and to provide general assistance to the doctor.
Once you decide to pursue being a medical assistant, the next step is to decide how to achieve that goal. You may choose to carry out your studies online, in a medical assistant school, in a technical school or a community college. It can take one year to get your certificate, or two years if you prefer an associate's degree from a medical assistant school. Choose a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) to become a medical assistant if you plan to get certified.
You will study a variety of topics in your quest to become a medical assistant, such as anatomy, physiology, medical insurance processing, medical transcription, first aid, medical terminology, patient relations, pharmacy, ethics and so on. It is not necessary to take all these courses from a medical assistant school, but it is recommended.
One thing people often overlook when researching how to become a medical assistant is the importance of interpersonal skills. While completing a medical assistant school or program is the first step, you must also be a person who communicates well and can get along with people from all walks of life. As a medical assistant, you will often be the first person patients encounter and they will typically spend more time with you than the doctor. They may also be experiencing pain or stress, so it is important to have compassion and a good "bedside manner" if you wish to become a medical assistant.
You may also want to improve your job prospects by completing additional certification in related fields, such as X-ray technology or other procedures depending on which type of practice you would like to work for. You can usually complete these courses in a medical assistant school or community college. Each state has their own laws regarding which procedures require certification, and you can make yourself a much more attractive candidate by securing the necessary license ahead of time.
If you wish to become a certified medical assistant, you will also need to take an official exam. Preparation from a medical assistant school can help you pass. However, you may still become a medical assistant without the officially-sanctioned certificate.
If you are unsure whether you should become a medical assistant, a medical assistant school can help assess you to see if you are right for the job.
Medical assistants often deal with bodily fluids and are exposed to sickness during a typical work day. Make sure you understand this is part of the job before deciding to become a medical assistant.
2016 Salary Information for Medical Assistants
Medical assistants earned a median annual salary of $31,540 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, medical assistants earned a 25th percentile salary of $26,860, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $37,760, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 634,400 people were employed in the U.S. as medical assistants.