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Your 5-Step Guide on How to Become a Medical Assistant

Nov 16, 2016 | Harrison College

Your 5-Step Guide on How to Become a Medical Assistant

There has never been a better time to become a medical assistant. Jobs are projected to increase by 23 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is more than three times faster than the national average!

With an optimistic outlook like that, it’s no wonder you’re considering a career as a medical assistant. But what’s next? What does the process actually involve?

To help simplify your research process, we broke it down into five basic steps. Keep reading to find your step-by-step guide on how to become a medical assistant.

Step 1: Do your research

Congratulations — you are already partly through step one! Reading articles (like this one) on how to become a medical assistant is a great way to prepare for the journey ahead. Know what you are getting into with this career by learning about career outlook and earning potential. You should also familiarize yourself with the daily duties and skills needed to excel as a medical assistant.

Make sure you check out your state’s requirements in terms of education and certification for medical assistants, since it can vary depending on where you work. And lastly, do your research to find the medical assisting program that aligns with your needs and career aspirations.

Step 2: Enroll in a medical assisting (MA) program

While it is possible to find work as a medical assistant without post-secondary education, the BLS reports that most employers prefer candidates have a certificate or diploma from an MA program. These programs typically take a year to complete, though some schools also offer a two-year associate degree in medical assisting.

An MA program will help you acquire a solid base of knowledge and skills on which to build your medical assisting career. These duties involve recording patient history while conforming to privacy and security regulations, measuring vital signs, assisting physicians with patient examinations, administering injections or medications and preparing blood samples for laboratory tests.

Step 3: Work toward graduation

Once you have enrolled in your program, buckle in and be prepared to give it your best work for the year or two years it takes. Learning to be a medical assistant can feel like a pretty steep curve at first, but rest assured that everything you’re learning will be applied on the job once you’re in the field.

You can expect to spend some time in both classroom and laboratory sessions as you learn lessons in anatomy and medical terminology, according to the BLS. Some schools include medical assisting internships (sometimes called externships) as part of their program.

This will give you an opportunity to apply what you’re learning in a professional setting, further preparing you for your career as a medical assistant. This hands-on experience could also be an opportunity to widen your network and lay some groundwork for potential future employment.

Step 4: Get certified

As with formal education, certification is not a legal requirement in most states. But employers prefer to hire certified assistants, according to the BLS. To find out if your state requires certification before you can work as a medical assistant, check out your state’s medical board.

To get certified, you’ll need to graduate from an accredited program or demonstrate work experience in addition to passing an exam. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies accredits five certifications for medical assistants:

Earning one of these certifications will help you stay competitive with the other applicants for a medical assisting job.

Step 5: Polish your resume and apply

Update your resume with your newly earned education and certification. While you’re at it, update your LinkedIn profile as well. (If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, now might be a good time to create one.)

The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers suggestions on how to format your resume, begin your job hunt and other useful resources for those who wish to start a career as a medical assistant. Take a look at their suggestions and resources for a helpful hand in your job hunt.

As you begin applying for jobs, don’t forget to tap into your network. If you attended an MA program, you might have access to a career advisor who can help you find the right job opportunities and make your application shine. Even without a career advisor, professors, colleagues from your externship and even fellow students can be handy resources.

Stay in contact with everyone you meet, and keep a careful eye out for opportunities they might be connected to.

Take the next step

You now have some actionable steps on how to become a medical assistant. If you’re convinced this is the career for you, continue down the path of research by looking into medical assisting programs.

Check out our Medical Assisting Program to learn how it could help prepare you for success in the field. Fill out the information box at the bottom of that page to get answers to any other questions you may have about the program.

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