How to become a Medical Assistant

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Medical Assistant? What Medical Assistants do? Degrees for Medical Assistants, Steps to become Medical Assistant and much more.

What does a Medical assistant do?

A Medical assistant is a trained healthcare provider who works with healthcare professionals, physicians, nurses, physicians and patients usually in a clinical setting. They perform the medical and administrative tasks associated with the medical office under the direct supervision of an experienced professional.

The main duties of a medical assistant come under the two categories of tasks such as administrative and healthcare.  They are,

  • Attending the phone calls of patients and schedule appointments

  • Updating and filling the medical records of the patients

  • Handling the laboratory service n the medical premises

  • Monitor the billing and bookkeeping

  • Instructing the patients about the treatment plans and examinations

  • Assisting patients with suitable diet plans and medications intake

  • Collect the blood samples , X-rays, perform electrocardiograms, remove sutures and change dressing of the patients.

Medical assistant’s salaries

According to the 2020, The BLS estimated that the average salary paid to the medical assistant in the United States is $35,729. The salary may typically range between $32,938 and $38,577 per year. This depends on the education, training, experience in the field, certification and all the additional skills possessed to stand out among other applicants.

Job growth

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment opportunities for a medical assistant is expected to have a growth of 23 percent over the period of 2018 to 2028 which is projected to be a faster growth than the average job growth. This growth is due to the increasing population which is in need of medical services, hence medical assistants are hired to manage the administrative and clinical duties.

Steps to become a Medical assistant

To pursue your career as a medical assistant, there are a number of paths you could choose and some are campus training, online programs, hands-on experience and other. Here are some steps to give you a clear idea.

Step 1- Complete an accredited program

The first step you take towards being a medical assistant is to look for a suitable accredited program for you. You must begin searching for the school which offers a program which is accredited and the common ones are,

  • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)

You could also choose an associates degree or a certification course which gives you a foundation for your learning and skills for an entry level job. The programs differ from one another by the completion period and curriculum. A medical assistant who graduated with a certification from an accredited school will have better chances of getting an employment soon.

Step 2- Gain clinical experience

While you are attending a training program, you may be required to gain clinical learning or hands-on experience under the supervision of a healthcare professional. If the program you're attending does not require a practical experience then, you can seek to gain experience by attending a summer internships or externships which helps in grasping the classroom knowledge and applying them to treat the actual patients and perform medical tasks.

Step 3- Obtain a certification

Earning a certification as a medical assistant emphasis that the candidate possesses exceptional knowledge and skills at a certain level. Most Certifying Agencies require you to complete an accredited program, and pass an exam to get certified and become credible and marketable to the job.

Here are some certifications that have been accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies,

  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)

  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) offered by the National Health career Association (NHA)

  • National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) offered by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)

  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) offered by American Medical Technologists (AMT)

Types of degree for a Medical assistant

To become a medical assistant you could choose two academic paths, one being the certification program and the other is earning an associates degree. Read further to get an overview of the programs available,

Certification program for Medical assistants

A certification program is conducted over a period of 12 months or less than a year. Students who choose the certification program gain primary knowledge and concepts on both the medical and administrative components to perform clinical tasks. The coursework helps to understand the operational healthcare industry of the United State, the medical terminologies, equipment, technologies, medical process and insurance procedures. Students also learn human anatomy and other concepts related to health. This program not only helps in gaining a formal education but also the practical experience by attending an internship or externship.

Associate’s degree for Medical assistants

The associates degree is a two years course which gives a total of 60 credit hours to complete the coursework. The skills you gain at an Associate’s degree is similar to the certification program but it gives an in-depth knowledge in medical assistance. The general courses may include math, writing, and humanities.  The core courses such as psychology, phlebotomy, human anatomy gives a solid knowledge on the concepts required for the job.

Online Medical Assistant School

The online programs provide education on the courses though similarly to the traditional education program at colleges and universities. You could choose to complete the degree or certification program online which offers courses accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). This gives the benefits to students to gain the degree or certificate while working and also provides a flexible study plan.

Concentrations to be considered by the Medical assistant

Academic concentrations: the coursework offered to the medical students gives them the core knowledge to perform the various medical as well as administrative tasks, there are courses offered at different level,



This course is to educate students on the proper medical terminologies and health care vocabulary which is required to effectively communicate in clinical encounters. It also teaches the students to communicate with the patients to instruct them in simple words which could act as barriers while performing medical tasks.

Skills acquired:

  • Understand the usage of terminologies

  • Spell, abbreviate the medical terms

  • Learn the human anatomy


Course to learn the billing and insurance process in the current healthcare industries. Learn the billing business and also obtain instant feedback to enhance the experience of patients.  

Skills acquired:

  • Understand the healthcare insurance and how it can be claimed

  • Diagnosis and medical coding procedure

  • Billing process in the industry


Students understand the laboratory procedures, testing techniques and documentation process under this course. Students learn to conduct data analysis, lab testing, specimen collection, maintaining records and other concepts.

Skills acquired:

  • Conduct test on the collected samples

  • Perform and handle the tests which various techniques


The course gives an introduction on professionalism in clinical settings by performing assessments, providing treatments and medication, and instructing the patients on the guidance of an experienced medical professional.

Skills acquired:

  • Learn professionalism before assisting the issues of patients in the real world.

  • Practical experience on the medical profession

  • Learn the running of medical office

Associates degree for Medical assistants

Here is a detailed description of the courses covered by the associate's degree program,


This course is a study of the human circulatory system, how the blood samples are collected, collection techniques and how contamination or infection can be avoided. This course is studied in depth at the associates level.

Skills acquired:

  • In-depth understanding on how to draw blood samples

  • Techniques of blood drawing

  • Understands the equipments used in sample collection

  • Safety measures to avoid contamination


This course details the behavioural science of the human mind and how it affects the actions. You also learn the analysis and interpretation of data and trends in the influence of mind power on actions.

Skills acquired:

  • Understand the human brain and activities

  • Learn about the memory, metal development, consciousness, learning

  • Analyse data and human behaviour


This is a course to understand the legal policies, laws and regulations around the healthcare  encountered by the medical professionals. Students understand the legal and ethical resources while conducting informative researches

Skills acquired:

  • Understand the legal principles in providing healthcare

  • Documentation procedure and bill generation

  • Privacy requirements encounter in this profession


This course educated about the interaction of drugs on the biological systems, the receptor mechanism, drug distribution, dosages and other concepts

Skills acquired:

  • Understand the interaction of drugs on human body

  • Metabolism and pharmacokinetics

  • Safety drug delivery

Job concentrations

As a medical assistant you could explore other alternative career opportunities available to you, they are,

Dental assistants:

A dental assistant is a profession who is trained to assist a dentist and patients by performing duties such as patient care, office work, laboratory running, examining records of patients, comforting patients on the dental chair, scheduling appointments and other. This job requires you to have a certification or a diploma. You can earn about $35,980 per year by working as a dental assistant.

Dental hygienist:

Dental hygienists are professionals who work under the dentist to provide oral care. Their duties involve cleaning the patients teeth and examining where there is a cavity, damage, gingivitis and other diseases. They also create awareness among people to maintain hygiene and good oral health. This profession requires you to get an associates degree and you could earn about $72,330 per year.

Pharmacy technician:

A pharmacy technician aids pharmacists to dispense suitable medications to customers. Their duties include examining the prescription they received, its accuracy, dosage, and measures which they received from the healthcare professionals. This job requires you to have a high school education and several hours of work experience to fetch you this job. The earning may range between $28,000 to $43,000 per year in this role.

Certified nursing assistant:

CNAs are nursing assistants who provide healthcare to patients in hospitals by helping them perform their daily routines. They work under the supervision of the registered nurse. Their duties include the basic healthcare to patients, dressing, bathing, giving medications and suggesting diet plans. To earn this job you must get post secondary education from a state approved program. You could earn up to $31,980 as an average salary in this job.

Physician assistant

A physician assistant is a trained professional who works on assisting patients to treat illness and diseases and prescribing medications to patients. They work under the direct supervision of a physical therapist to treat injuries, manage pain and regain movement of parents. They require a masters degree to land on this job and can earn up to $98,180 per year in this job.

Stand out skills for a Medical assistant

The job of a medical assistant is challenging and involves both medical tasks and administrative tasks. Hence some specialised skills are required to outstand in this profession, hence they are listed below,

Communication: As a Medical assistant, you must effectively communicate with the patients, healthcare professionals, colleagues. You must be good at conveying instructions and information to the patients in simple terms. Should also be good at writing and maintaining records accurately.

Attention to detail: paying attention to the smallest details, being observants is necessary in this profession. You must record all the details of the patient, analyse their condition and progress.

Customer service: A medical assistant also performs administrative tasks, they closely interact with patients regarding their problems, scheduling appointments, greeting the patients, making them comfortable, attending their calls and other services.

Technical knowledge: You must be technically sound with the technologies, computer usage, updated knowledge and terminologies. You are required to have skills on performing tests, obtaining reports, maintaining records, techniques and tools required to assist the healthcare professionals.

Multitasking: As the profession itself defines two types of tasks such as the clinical and administrative tasks, you must be able to handle the pressure and completion of tasks on time. The tasks may include bookkeeping, bill generation, running office, schedule appointments, computer usage, patient management and other tasks to be performed before the deadline.