Medical Assistant programs in California

How to Become a Medical Assistant

Are you interested in working in the medical field? As a medical assistant, you can work alongside doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals.

During your medical assistant career, you will cover two types of duties: administrative and clinical duties. Most medical assistants cover both types of duties during their career.

Why do people seek out a career as a medical assistant? For one, you get to help people in your community, and that gives many people a sense of purpose and satisfaction. From a practical standpoint, the demand for medical assistants is high. If you pursue this career, it is likely that you will have steady pay and hours, solid benefits, and a predictable source of income.

Certified medical assistants have many career paths open to them, and a wide variety of places that are looking for medical assistants. With the medical assistant program from MTI College, you can become a certified medical assistant in as little as 42 weeks.

In this guide, we will look at the necessary steps to become to become a medical assistant, and what you can expect at the onset of your career.

What is a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants work alongside physicians, performing a wide range of clinical and administrative tasks. There are many places medical assistant may work including: hospitals, outpatient facilities, ambulatory care facilities, medical offices, or clinics. Anywhere there are doctors or physicians, medical assistants are usually there to perform important tasks that help keep the medical office running smoothly.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

In a medical facility or hospital, medical assistants perform numerous tasks, both clinical and administrative. These important responsibilities often include:

Typical Medical Assistant Responsibilities

Scheduling appointmentsMeasuring vital signs
Welcoming patientsArrange patient admissions
Manage medical records, billing or codingPreparing examination rooms
Sterilize medical equipmentDrawing blood for testing
Input patient insurance informationPerform basic medical exams and diagnostics
Moving medical records to EHRsAdminister medications, under doctor’s supervision
Give injections, under doctor’s supervisionInstructing patients about special diet or medications

How Do You Become a Medical Assistant?

Most hospitals or medical offices prefer candidates with formal training and a medical assistant certification. These steps walk you through the process of becoming a medical assistant.

1. Choose a Program in Which to Enroll

As you do research to choose a school and medical assistant program, keep in mind you must pick a program that is accredited by one of the two accrediting agencies. Without accreditation, you will not be able to take professional certification exams. Some of the accreditation agencies are:

  • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

MTI College’s medical assistant program is accredited through WASC.

Factors that you should consider when choosing a medical assistant program are how graduates do on graduation, job placement, program accreditation, program cost vs return on investment, externship, and flexibility of the program (e-learning or online learning vs in-classroom learning).

Some programs are certification programs and others may be degree programs (associate’s degrees). Degree programs usually take two years, while certification programs can be completed in a year or less.

2. Complete an Externship

Most medical assistant training programs require completion of an externship before taking the certification exam. An externship is hands-on experience in a clinic or medical office that follows completion of classroom training.

An externship gives you the opportunity to work with professional medical assistants and get real-life experience in a clinical environment. This is a good time to ask questions of your mentors, develop and practice skills, and make personal connections and contacts in the medical field. Getting classroom learning lays the foundation of your training, but an externship gives you a chance to train in the field first-hand.

Most medical assistant schools will set up your externship with a local clinic or medical office as part of their training program.

3. Pass Your Exam and Get Certified

There are different exams that you can take to become a Certified Medical Assistant. The exam that MTI College prepares you for, the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) exam has 150-multiple choice questions. The NCMA exam is certified by the National Center for Competency Testing.

No matter which certification test you take, you’ll be tested on a wide range of medical assisting topics. Earning a certification credential lets employers know that you are knowledgeable and ready to work in a medical facility or hospital.

4. Prepare a Resume and Apply for Positions

Medical assisting is a quickly growing position, but if you have no previous work experience, it might pay to apply to a wide variety of medical offices. Be sure to not only apply to general physicians and doctor’s offices. Apply to different doctor’s offices, such as chiropractors, pediatricians, or podiatrists. You might also have more luck finding a job at a smaller, local office. From this first medical assisting job, you can build experience and work up to a medical assistant position at your desired facility.

Many vocational schools, including MTI College, also have job placement programs. For the 2018-2019 award year, the job placement rate for MTI College was 100% (adjusted) and 78% (unadjusted). The unadjusted rate represents the percentage of total graduates who obtain employment in or related to their field of study. The adjusted rate represents the percentage of graduates who are actively looking for work and obtain employment in or related to their field of study. Checking jobs boards like Indeed, Glassdoor, and ZipRecruiter can also reveal job opportunities

Once you get a job interview for an open position at a medical office, be prepared for the interview process. Do some research on the medical facility itself. Practice questions and answers with a friend or reach out to an experienced medical assistant to find out what employers might ask.

After a number of interviews, you should be accepted to a position at a medical facility.

5. Start Your Career with a Job as a Medical Assistant

Congratulations, now you have landed your first job within the medical field. Soon you’ll be enjoying a nice salary, and most likely benefits as well, all while doing a job that helps people in the community. From here, you can gain experience, and if you are inclined to do so, work at branching into different career paths in the medical industry.

Skills Required to Be a Medical Assistant

Medical Assistants work around people, both staff and patients every day, so soft skills are a must. Having good organizational skills are also important. Here are some of the other crucial skills a medical assistant will need to succeed:

  • Communication skills
  • Positive attitude and friendly demeanor
  • Time management and organizational skills
  • Computer savvy
  • Adaptability and ability to “think on feet”
  • Good listener
  • Attention to detail
  • Compassion and empathy

Medical assistants who work in specialized medical centers might need specific skills related to the specialty of the facility.

What Is the Job Outlook for Medical Assistants?

Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the number of jobs for medical assistants will rise over 18% between 2020 and 2030. This is much faster job growth than the average for most jobs in the US, which is 7%. Medical assistants are actually one of the fastest growing jobs in in the United States for the next ten years.

Note: The data provided above are from a source unaffiliated with MTI College, are for informational purposes only and represent the employment field as a whole. They are not solely specific to MTI graduates and, by providing the above information, MTI makes no representation, direct or implied, or opinion regarding employability.

Choosing the Right Program

Do your due diligence and research different programs before making a choice about what program to enroll in. Different colleges and technical schools have different tuition fees. A credible program should lead to a medical assistant Certification that is recognized by medical facilities and hospitals, and run through an accredited school or education institution.

Many accredited vocational schools or community colleges with help you with Financial Aid.

Types of Medical Assistant Certifications Available

Some of the most common certifications for medical assistants are:

  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certification
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) certification
  • Nationally Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) certification

MTI College prepares students to pass the Nationally Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) Exam. We also prepare them for all the above tests, except the CMAA (which is certified by CAAHEP).

You can read more about each of the certifications here.

What is the Average Salary for Medical Assistants?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for medical assistants in 2019 was $34,800 per year, nationwide. The average hourly wage in 2019 was $16.73 per hour nationwide. According to Glassdoor, the annual salary for a medical assistant in Sacramento in Q4 2020 was between 30k-43k, with a median salary of $35,905.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Certified Medical Assistant?

Many vocational schools and community colleges offer programs that allow you to pass the certifying exam. The program at MTI College lets you become a certified medical assistant in about 42 weeks.

Is it Worth Becoming a Medical Assistant?

There are many upsides to becoming a medical assistant. It is an in-demand career growing much faster than the national average. You can become certified in less than a year, and most medical employers will not hire a medical assistant without formal training and certification. It is a fulfilling career that you can use as a stepping-stone to many different medical career paths. Because this is a position that is in demand nationwide, you can use your certification to go anywhere, and still be able to get a job that is nearly layoff-proof. This means you will be able to earn a living for many years to come. Many medical assistants also find the job rewarding because they get to help people on a daily basis.

Do Medical Assistants Earn More Than CNAs?

According to 2019 statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants earn about $5,000 more per year on average than Certified Nursing Assistants.

Is it Difficult to Become a Medical Assistant?

In MTI College’s Medical Assistant program, you will learn medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. Each student in the Medical Assisting program is required to finish a 160‐hour unpaid off‐campus Medical Assisting Externship along with the standard course requirements in order to graduate. To become certified as a Medical Assistant, the classroom work can be completed in as few as 38 weeks, followed by a 4-week externship. This means you can become certified as a Medical Assistant in as little as 42 weeks.

Take the First Step Towards Becoming a Medical Assistant

The Admissions team at MTI College can help you enroll, and answer any questions you have. Reach out today by filling out our contact form, and we can help you being the process of earning your Medical Assistant Certification.

Want to learn more about MTI’s programs?

Our admissions team will help you find the perfect program to meet your goals. Financial aid is available to those who qualify.

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