How to Become a Medical Assistant

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A Medical Assistant (MA) or Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) assists nurses and physicians with a variety of administrative and medical tasks. Medical assisting is one of many allied health careers. Most medical assistants work in a doctor's office and some work in hospitals. There are many different types of medical assistant jobs available which makes it a versatile career choice.

Education Required

There are two types of educational programs available to aspiring medical assistants. Some schools offer a one-year certificate, or you may complete a two-year associate’s degree from an accredited school. The coursework for medical assistants will include medical terminology, math and science, first aid, medical billing, and more.


After completing the program, MAs can sign up to take the certification exam to become a CMA. The course is offered three times per year by the American Association of Medical Assistants. The certification must be renewed every five years. Some employers do not require the certification, but CMAs will typically have more job options than MAs.

Duties and Responsibilities

Medical Assistants help with a variety of tasks including checking patients in, taking vital signs, and medical record-keeping such as updating and filing charts. Medical Assistants also may give shots and some help with medical billing and insurance coding.

Typical Schedule

Most medical assistants will work about a 40 hour week, Monday through Friday. However, if the medical office remains open for nights or weekends, additional hours may be required unless there is a separate weekend staff.

What's to Like

Medical assisting is the most versatile of the allied healthcare professions because they are trained in both clinical tasks (involving patient care) and administrative tasks. CMAs are qualified to work in most medical offices, so there are many options for employment. Medical assistants are not limited to a particular medical specialty.

Additionally, becoming a medical assistant is a relatively easy process compared to some of the other allied roles, so it would be a great way to determine if you would want to become a nurse or a doctor and continue your training further.

What's Not to Like

Medical assisting is not the most lucrative of the allied healthcare professions. Also, there is not much of a career path; upward mobility is somewhat limited unless you are willing to get more education.

Salary Range

According to the AMA website, salary ranges for medical assistants range from about $22,000 to just over $30,000 annually. Additional benefits such as health insurance may be offered with the salary.

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