How to Become a Medical Assistant
1. Complete an Accredited Medical Assistant Training Program (1 - 2 Years)
The majority of medical assistants complete a formal training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
These programs are offered in high school vocational-technical programs, post-secondary vocational schools, community and junior colleges and state colleges and universities. They can take anywhere from 9 months to 1 year for those seeking a certificate and up to 2 years for those looking to complete an associate's degree.
Common areas of study include:
- Medical coding
- Medical diagnostics
- Patient intake
- Infection control
- Anatomy & physiology
2. Become a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers the certification for medical assistants. While it is not a requirement for entry in the field, it is highly recommended as certified medical assistants are typically more competitive in the job market, are offered higher salaries, and have more opportunities open to them than those who do not possess the credential.
To be eligible, (1) current students may take the CMA exam within 30 days of completing their formal education and practicum, (2) recent graduates may take the exam within 1 year of graduation, (3) nonrecent graduates may take the exam if they they apply over 1 year after graduation, and (4) candidates who have previously passed the exam may apply to recertify.
The Certified Medical Assistant Exam is comprehensive, covering general, clinical, and administrative categories. It consists of 200 multiple-choice questions in 4 40-minute blocks.