Medical Assistant: Requirements to Be a Physician's Assistant

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a medical assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

A medical assistant is an administrative professional who performs clerical duties in healthcare settings, such as maintaining the physician's office and interacting with patients. This career path is not to be confused with that of a physician assistant, who is allowed to practice medicine under a doctor's supervision. Medical assisting may be a good career choice for students with strong organizational and interpersonal skills and an interest in medicine. No formal education or certification is required, but those who have completed a medical assisting program and/or hold additional credentials may be afforded more employment opportunities.

Required Education None mandatory; certificate and associate's degree programs available
Certification Voluntary through the American Association of Medical Assistants and the American Medical Technologists
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 29%*
Median Salary (2013) $29,610*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Requirements for Becoming a Medical Assistant

There are no formal educational requirements for becoming a medical assistant. Some medical assistants are trained solely on the job, often by shadowing experienced employees and participating in employer-administered training programs; however, most employers prefer to hire applicants who have completed a medical assisting program.

Medical Assisting Programs

Medical assisting programs can be found at community colleges and technical schools. These programs generally take 1-2 years to complete and result in either a certificate or an associate's degree. The prerequisites for entry into medical assisting programs usually include a high school diploma or its equivalent and proof of certain immunizations. Some schools may also require a criminal background check.

Curriculum

Medical assisting programs provide students with an education in the basic sciences, such as anatomy and physiology. They also tend to offer courses like electronic health records, medical office clinical procedures and medical billing. Accredited programs may include a practicum or unpaid internship, which allows students to apply their newly-learned skills in healthcare settings.

Medical Assistant Certification Options

Certification is voluntary for medical assistants but may be a beneficial career move. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants who hold certification may benefit from higher salaries and greater job prospects (www.bls.gov). Certification programs are available through a range of professional organizations.

American Association of Medical Assistants

The American Association of Medical Assistants offers the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential (www.aama-ntl.org). To be eligible, candidates must graduate from an accredited medical assisting program, complete a practicum and pass a written exam. CMAs must renew certification every 60 months by passing an exam or earning 60 recertification points.

American Medical Technologists

The American Medical Technologists (AMT) offers the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certification to qualified professionals. Candidates must complete an accredited or AMT-approved training program or have been employed as a medical assistant for the past five years (www. americanmedtech.org). They must then pass a certification exam that assesses administrative, clinical and general knowledge pertaining to medical assisting.

Career and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that medical assistant employment may grow at a much faster-than-average rate of 29% in the years 2012-2022. Medical assistants earned a median annual salary of $29,610 in May 2013, according to the BLS.

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        • Master in Medical Assisting and Administration

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    • Must be graduated from high school by 2011
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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must complete an application online and submit transcripts for their highest degree earned.
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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must hold a Bachelor's degree or higher
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    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Florida include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Dental
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
        • Athletic Trainer
        • Physician Assistant
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    Areas of study you may find at Marquette University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Dental
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
        • Athletic Trainer
        • Physician Assistant
      • Nursing Professions
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
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    • Iowa (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Iowa include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Dental
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        • Physician Assistant
        • Radiological Science and Technologies
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      • Nursing Professions
      • Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration
      • Public Health and Safety
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    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at George Washington University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Dental
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
        • Athletic Trainer
        • EMT and Paramedic
        • Physician Assistant
        • Ultrasound and Sonography Technologies
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Nursing Professions
      • Public Health and Safety
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
      • Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Sciences

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics