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Steps to Becoming a Medical Assistant

Working in the medical field is a great way to ensure that you have plenty of job opportunities, a sizable income and the ability to help others live a better life on a daily basis. Learning how to become a medical assistant is easier than you may expect, with programs that allow you to enter the industry in as little as 6 months and others that let you continue your education for 2 years or more. There is no reason to put off pursuing this career path as, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is experiencing an alarming job outlook (growth) of 29% through 2022, which is much faster than average. In addition, the average income for someone in the medical assisting field is around $38,000 a year as of the time of this writing.

Getting Started – Research Options

Before you do anything, consider looking for an entry level position within the industry. It is important that you bring experience into the field as the combination of experience and education will be the driving factors in how quickly you are hired and how much you should expect to earn. With that said, you should also start researching schools as early as possible.

There are a number of paths to take towards your education. The first is a traditional campus based education, one offered through a community college or trade school. The other side of the coin is earning a degree through an online program. You can find online programs offered through community colleges, universities and trade schools. The advantage of learning online is that you get to learn on your own schedule. You will find due dates for some graded work, but no matter how busy your schedule may be, you will have time to take on a full load of classes.

Schools like Penn Foster College, offer robust, affordable online degrees in medical assisting that are easy to understand, no matter how technically savvy you may or may not be. As long as you have a word processor and can browse the web, you have the skills and tools you need to be successful online. This all leads to the point that you have no excuse to put off your education, as you can earn experience and your education at the same time.

What Should You Expect?

Depending on what path you take, (clinical medical assistant, administrative medical assistant, traditional medical assistant) you can expect to spend a varying amount of time in school to learn the required skills needed for your daily tasks. Administrative medical assistants focus on administration and paperwork. This is an ideal choice for those that wish to work more at a desk setting that those that wish to be on their feet all day. Clinical medical assistants tasks focus more on patient care and medication administration. You will work directly with doctors and nurses and spend more time with patients and on sterilization of medical instruments and patient rooms. Traditional medical assistants straddle the line between the two and perform duties on both sides of the clinic.

State regulations will also guide your tasks. Some states will restrict what you are able to do, so research your specific state more so you have a firm understanding of your particular expectations. Most of the tasks you will learn will not be based on state regulations which will make it easier to transition into positions outside of the state in which you learn.

Certification and Registration

This is a key consideration for anyone working towards a career as a medical assistant. First, certification and registration are essentially interchangeable designations. The primary difference comes from the organization or association to which you have a membership. For those interested in earning a certification, visit the American Association of Medical Assistants, where you can earn the CMA (AAMA). For those interested in registration, visit the American Registry of Medical Assistants, or ARMA. Don’t’ worry too much about which choice to make, simply explore the two associations and decide which you wish to become a member.

The benefits of a certification or registration come from higher income expectations ($8,000 – $12,000 more a year on average) and more job opportunities. To be clear, a certificate program and a certification are two different things. If you earn a certificate through school, you are not certified, you still need to earn a certification. Upon completion of a certification or registration, you will find that you have more job opportunities and a higher chance for upward mobility.

Talk with your educator about the options available as they will have a robust understanding of the two and can help you make the choice that is perfect for you. In addition, speaking with local employers will let you know if there is a preference towards one or the other in your area. In most cases, employers are happy that you have either and won’t take preference, but it is still best to check this before spending the time and money to become certified or registered. As a final note, taking this path will also show employers that you will always be up to date on the latest medical assistant breakthroughs as you need to take continuing education courses and recertify every 60 months.

Just a little research and a short stint in school will put you on a path to become what you want. You will finally earn what you are worth and have the income and job security to start planning for your future. Getting ready for retirement is getting harder and harder and pursuing this path will make it much easier. Study hard, do your research and make the best choices for your goals and you will find the quality of your life improving before you long at all.