Medical assistants are a crucial part of our healthcare system, supporting doctors and other providers to help people in need. If you’re interested in working in the medical field, becoming a medical assistant can be a great way to start working your way up in healthcare.
There's Never Been a Better Time to Become a Medical Assistant
Health care is a top-growing industry in the United States, with medical assistants in high demand. As healthcare providers switch to more team-based approaches to patient care, medical assistants are needed more than ever. On top of that, medical assistants often enjoy a flexible schedule, and they usually have opportunities to specialize in particular areas of interest to even better serve their patients. You can become a medical assistant in 4 months to 2 years – once you have your high school diploma, GED, or SLE.
Things to Consider When Mapping Out a Medical Assistant Career Path
As a medical assistant, you have the opportunity to deliver critical healthcare and help people in need. Here are some factors to keep in mind when considering this career path:
What's the Job Outlook for Medical Assistant Career Paths?
Employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 16% through 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means an estimated 123,000 additional medical assistant jobs are predicted to open up each year for at least the next 8 years. As the population ages, elderly individuals will require more medical care. Healthcare teams depend on the skills and compassion of medical assistants in doctor’s offices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and private homes. The median annual wage for medical assistants was $37,190 in 2021. The lowest 10% of medical assistants earned less than $29,070 and the highest 10% earned more than $48,170. On average, the highest-paid medical assistants worked in outpatient care centers.
Medical Assistant Career Job Settings
Anywhere healthcare or medical services are provided, you’ll find medical assistants, including (but not limited to):
- Doctor’s offices
- Outpatient care centers
- Long-term care facilities
- Hospice centers
- Urgent care clinics
- Chiropractic offices
The majority – 58% –of medical assistants work in doctor’s offices or clinics. Medical assistants can work in general healthcare settings, but many choose a specialty like pediatrics, cardiology, or hospice care.
Where Will a Medical Assistant Career Path Take Me?
In addition to coursework, your medical assistant program includes externships, where you will gain important hands-on experience in the field of healthcare. You will shadow and observe medical professionals to learn what they do and how they work. Medical assistant programs usually require between 100 and 160 hours of externship hours to complete your training. There are so many directions you can go based on your interests, education, and certifications.
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
This option is for medical assistants who prefer to work more on the medical side of healthcare and less on the clinical or administrative side. CCMA certificates are issued by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) and require you to have completed a medical assistant training or education program within the last 5 years or to have 1 year of supervised work experience in the medical assisting field within the last 3 years. Job Duties:
- Prepare patients for their doctor visit
- Educate patients on healthcare instructions and answer questions
- Record patient care information
- Administer medications
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) or Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
These are two of the most general certificates/registrations for medical assistants and include administrative training as well as clinical education. The only difference between CMAs and RMAs is the title and the organizations that oversee the certificate/registration. CMAs are issued by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), and RMAs are issued by American Medical Technologists (AMT). To be eligible for CMA certification or RMA registration, you must have graduated from an accredited medical assisting program within the past 4 years or be about to graduate. Job Duties:
- Take patient histories
- Perform triage, like taking a patient’s blood pressure and other vital signs
- Schedule appointments, including follow-up visits
- Assist doctors with exams
What Classes Can I Take to Pursue a Medical Assistant Career Path?
That depends on where you are in your medical assistant career journey. The classes you may need to take to prepare to become a medical assistant will depend on whether you’re just starting out or you’re finishing up more specific requirements. If you’re just starting your training program, focus first on general education classes, like English Composition or College Algebra. These are often required general education courses for medical assistant degrees or training certificate programs. If you’re further along in your education, you can turn your focus to more specialized courses. You might be looking to fulfill core curriculum requirements for medical assistant schools, like Anatomy & Physiology, Pharmacology, or Medical Terminology. StraighterLine has a wide range of courses that can help you fulfill both general education and core curriculum requirements for your medical assistant career path. EXPLORE COURSES
Fast Track Your Medical Assistant Career Path with StraighterLine
Most medical assistant programs require a set of clinical and administrative classes. So take the first step in your medical assistant career path with StraighterLine's self-paced, affordable online courses. Your credits are guaranteed to transfer to any of our partner schools or through the ACE CREDIT service to over 2,000 colleges and universities worldwide.