How to Become a Medical Assistant: Coursework and Certification
Medical assistants are in high demand, with a 19 percent expected increase in employment by 2029 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is much faster than average. Because of the high demand and relatively fewer requirements compared to nursing, finding the right medical assistant program is an excellent career choice. But how does one become a certified medical assistant? Let’s find out what medical assistant training looks like and the overall steps of how to become a medical assistant.
What is a medical assistant?
A medical assistant completes both front office tasks and patient care in physicians' offices, hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Have you ever been to a doctors' office and had a healthcare worker take your height and weight before the doctor comes in to see you? Most people assume the first person they see in a doctor's office is a nurse, who has spent four years in college and took a national exam, but in many doctors' offices, this person is actually a medical assistant.
What does a medical assistant do?
Medical assistants complete both administrative and clinical tasks in healthcare settings. A medical assistant has a versatile career because their responsibilities can range from working in a front office at a local physician's practice, to taking patients' vitals in a nursing home, to performing lab procedures in a hospital. Some responsibilities a medical assistant could expect on a given day include the following:
Answering phone calls
Managing patient files
Taking a patient's height and weight
Taking a patient's vitals (such as their temperature, heart rate and blood pressure)
Taking a patient's medical history
Giving patients vaccinations and medications
Because they can help with a range of different tasks, an equally diverse range of medical assistant skills are often necessary. Many doctors’ offices and hospitals prefer to hire individuals with postsecondary training for that reason.
How long does it take to become a medical assistant?
There are two paths to becoming a medical assistant. You can either complete a certificate program, which can take as little as eight months, or you can complete an associate's degree, which usually takes about two years. Both options equally qualify you to work as a medical assistant.
What can I expect during medical assistant training?
Medical assistant training consists of medical education, labs and hands-on experiences. Medical assistant training also provides education on billing, coding, medical software and other administrative tasks to prepare you to work in healthcare offices.
Examples of Programs and Coursework
When you attend a medical assistant training program you can expect to learn the following important skills:
Anatomy and Physiology – Learn all the parts of the human body, how they relate and work together, as well as each body system, common diseases, and related tests.
Clinical and Diagnostic Procedures – Learn how to perform an electrocardiogram (EKG), which monitors a patient's heart activity.
Front Office Basics – Scheduling patients, managing records and computer basics will prepare you to work in a medical office.
Intro to Billing and Medical Coding – Learn about billing and submit claims to insurance companies and patients.
Medication Administration – Learn how to calculate dosages based on a patient's age and weight, and give patients oral medications, injections, and more.
Patient Care – Learn how to greet a patient, record their vital signs, keep records and perform a basic physical exam.
Phlebotomy for Medical Assistants – Learn how to draw a patient's blood for testing.
Basic Life Support – Learn how to operate equipment that can save lives in emergencies.
How do I become certified as a medical assistant?
Completing a formal medical assistant training program is essentially how to become a certified medical assistant. Not all states require medical assistants to be certified, but most employers want to hire individuals who have completed a medical assistant program and have proof of certification.
How do I find medical assistant programs near me?
When choosing a medical assistant program, you’ll want to make sure you are attending one that is accredited by an organization such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Accredited programs are reviewed by a voluntary, non-governmental, peer-review process, which helps institutions uphold standards of educational quality. Look for a program where you will earn other healthcare certifications while you are attending, such as basic life support, EKG and phlebotomy. You should also consider the benefit of in-person programs to ensure you have the best hands-on training to prepare you to work with patients in the medical field.
For those looking for a medical assistant training program in Florida, Hollywood Institute offers a robust certification course that provides live, hands-on training and gets you prepared in months instead of years. Apply for day or night classes today!