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Certified Medical Assistant Training: Medical Assistant School Courses and Certification Programs

Medical assistants are usually trained on the job and work in a physician's office. They perform administrative and clerical duties, along with clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, health practitioners, and chiropractors. This helps ensure smooth operations throughout the office, but the position is very different from a physician assistant role.

Job Description and Responsibilities of Medical Assistant School Graduates

Graduates of medical assistant schools are expected to:

  • Communicate and correspond with the public

  • Put patients at ease by explaining the physician's or health practitioner's instructions

  • Assume office manager responsibilities and duties

  • Maintain patient confidentiality

  • Become familiar with the physician's goals

  • Understand basic pharmaceutical principles

  • Learn about medical law and adhere to ethical standards

Career Options After Medical Assistant School

Students of medical assistant schools can choose to work in: 

  • Hospitals

  • Group practices

  • Physician offices

  • Chiropractor's offices

  • Public and private education services

  •  Ambulatory health care service

  • Medical laboratories

  • Nursing care facilities

  • Outpatient care centers

  • State and local government health care agencies

Medical Assistant Training & Certification

Prospective medical assistants can obtain medical assistant training in a few ways. One way to obtain medical assistant training is to enroll in programs offered at vocational-technical high schools that focus on a specific curriculum. Postsecondary vocational schools and community colleges are another option. Most postsecondary programs range from 1-2 years in length, and many result in an Associate Degree.

The Associate Degree covers a range of subjects that may include science-based topics such as anatomy, medical terminology, and physiology, along with administrative and business processes. Here, most students learn medical transcription, recordkeeping, accounting, insurance processing, and typing. Office practices may include patient relations, medical ethics, and medical law. Laboratory techniques may include first aid training, administration of medication, and basic pharmaceutical procedures.

Another option is to enroll in a formal medical assisting program. Although this is not required, it is preferred by many prospective employers. Applicants to this program will need a high school diploma or equivalent, with recommended high school courses of mathematics, health, computers, office skills, typing, and bookkeeping. Volunteer experience in the health care industry can also help with enrollment in this type of program. All accredited programs include an internship that provides hands-on experience at a health care facility or office.

Graduates of medical assistant programs may apply for a license, but this is not necessarily required. Some states do require a test or a course in order to be approved for certain tasks. These tasks may range from handling x-ray equipment to medical note taking procedures.

Medical assistants are required to be either certified or licensed, and the majority choose to be certified. Two types of certification are available; the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential is awarded by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The American Medical Technologists (AMT) awards the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certificate.

Certification requires graduation from an accredited medical assistant program. Certification is recognized by many prospective employers around the country, and can give any medical assistant student a competitive edge.

Medical Assistant Schools Accreditation

The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are the governing bodies that accredit programs in medical assisting. 

Medical Assistant School Graduates Earning Potential and Employment Prospects

Medical assistant graduates made an average of $27,490 in 2004. The earnings vary depending on the experience of the medical assistant, their skill level, and location. The demand for skilled medical assistant program graduates has grown significantly in recent years, and employment prospects look promising. The high rate of health care services is the main reason for the need of skilled professionals in this area. Medical assistants can advance in their career with specialization, by working in a particular health care field, or moving into office manager positions and other positions with increased responsibility. Related occupations include:

  • Dental assistants

  • Occupational therapist assistants

  • Pharmacy aides

  • Physical therapist assistants

  • Medical records and health information technicians

Medical Assistant Associate Degree

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