Medical Assistant Career Paths: Advancing Your Career

Medical assistants are an integral part of any medical facility or hospital. They perform both administrative and clinical tasks, supporting physicians, and completing other important tasks.

Some of the things medical assistants may do on a daily basis include measuring patient vital signs, recording patient information, helping doctors with examinations, scheduling appointments, preparing lab samples, removing sutures, and conducting lab work, among other things.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 19% job growth for medical assistants between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than normal. This makes medical assistants one of the fastest growing careers in the US. For comparison, the average job in the US only has 7% growth over a ten-year projection.

There is plenty of room for advancement once you start your medical assistant career. In this article, we’ll look at the different career paths that you can go down, what type of training you’ll need for each, and what to expect in each career roadmap.

Table of Contents

  1. Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant
  2. Types of Medical Assistant Certifications
  3. Career Paths for Certified Medical Assistants

Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant

Many medical facilities or hospitals will require some sort of certification for medical assistant candidates. The timeline for securing a medical assistant job and advancing your career usually looks like this:

  • First 1-2 years: Going through a certification program from an accredited school. These will usually also have an externship, so the MA can get hands-on field experience.
  • Passing certification exam.
  • Next 2-3 years: Getting work experience in a medical facility, clinic, or hospital. Learning more about the medical field and thinking about specialized fields.
  • Next 2-3 years and beyond: Deciding on a specialty. Getting further training, certifications, and education to advance your medical career.

Types of Medical Assistant Certifications

There are several types of medical assistant certifications, and some are certified by different agencies. The certifications for MA’s are:

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

Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certification

The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential is overseen by American Medical Technologists (AMT). Medical assistants may earn RMA certification if they meet one of these qualifications and also pass the RMA exam:

  • Completed a medical assistant program in the last four years approved by AMT, the US Department of Education, or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This program must include at least 720 clinical training hours and 160 hours of externship.
  • Five years of working experience within the last seven years, in both clinical and administrative duties.
  • Possession of a CMA or other medical assistant certification from another certifying body (besides AMT).
  • Currently a medical assistant instructor, with five years of experience as a medical assisting teacher, and have completed one course in a related healthcare field.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification

The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) is administered by the National Healthcare Association (NHA). This certification allows medical assistants to work in a clinical capacity in addition to administrative responsibilities. To become CCMA certified, medical assistants must meet these requirements:

  • Possess a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Complete an accredited medical assistant program or have one year work experience as a medical assistant.
  • Pass the CCMA certification exam.

Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) certification

As a Certified Administrative Medical Assistant Certification (CMAA), medical assistants can work in administrative roles such as the front desk, scheduling appointments, maintain medical files, and take phone calls in the medical facility or hospital. To become CMAA certified, a candidate must:

  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Complete an accredited training program.
  • Pass the CMAA certification exam.

Nationally Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) certification

The Nationally Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)  is the certification that MTI College medical assistant students are prepared to pass. The NCMA certification is offered through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). The requirements for this certification include at least one of the following, plus passing the NCMA exam:

  • Completion of an accredited medical assistant training program within the last ten years, or current student in an accredited MA program.
  • Been a foreign physician or RN with documented US equivalency in the last ten years.
  • Completed an US military medical assistant program in the last ten years.
  • Been a medical assistant instructor with ten years or more of experience.
  • Minimum of two years (or 4,160 hours) full-time work experience working under supervision of a licensed physician as a medical assistant practitioner in the last ten years.

The MTI College Medical Assistant program prepares students to pass any of the above certification exams.

How Can Medical Assistants Advance Their Careers After Becoming Certified?

Many medical assistants wonder how they can advance their career while working in a hospital or other medical facility. After gaining a few years of experience, you may be looking at ways to move your career forward and move into an even better position.

Here are several ways you can advance your medical assistant career path into more differentiated and specialized roles.

Phlebotomy Technician

Phlebotomy technicians are responsible for drawing blood from patients or donors and preparing blood samples for testing. They can also be responsible for updating patient records, preparing lab equipment, and explaining procedures to patients. Phlebotomy technicians work in hospitals, laboratories, clinics, blood donation centers, and other medical facilities where blood is drawn.

The job growth for phlebotomists is projected to be 17% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than average.

MTI College offers a program where you can get certification for Medical Assisting and Phlebotomy. If you’re interested in this certification program, contact our Admissions team for more information.

Specialized Medical Assistant Roles

There are many specialized fields that you can go into as a medical assistant. Each of these fields has their own certifications, stating that an MA is certified to work in that specialty. Some of these include: podiatry, internal medicine, pediatrics, OB-GYN, cardiology, endocrinology, oncology, urology, dermatology, and orthopedics.

Medical Records Manager

This is a mostly administrative position, where you are responsible for oversight for patient medical records, collecting accurate information, storing and protecting sensitive information, and managing other medical and billing co-workers.

Some employers may require an associate or undergraduate degree. If this career path is interesting to you, MTI College offers an AA in Business Administration degree program at our Sacramento campus.

Surgical Technician

A surgical technician works with surgeons and other medical professionals, primarily in operating rooms and hospitals. Surgical technicians prepare the operating room and surgical equipment, and prep patients for surgery. They may also assist surgeons during medical procedures, handing surgical equipment to the surgeon as needed. A surgical technician may also clean the operating room in preparation for the next surgery. You can think of surgical technicians as a specialized type of medical assistant specifically for surgeons.

Job growth for surgical technicians is projected to be 8% between 2018 and 2019, faster than the national average.

To work as a surgical technician, you will need to pass a special certification exam. Medical assisting provides a wealth of work experience that may help you take a surgical technician program and pass the exam.

EKG Technician

Electrocardiograph (EKG) technicians help doctors identify and treat cardiovascular conditions in patients. An EKG technician performs specialized diagnostic tests like electrocardiograms, stress testing, and telemetry monitoring. These tests help EKG technicians diagnose cardiovascular symptoms that precede heart attacks or other cardiovascular diseases. EKG technicians usually work in hospitals or clinics. Other duties may include educating patients, monitoring patients’ blood pressure, and recording medical information.

Most EKG technicians receive on the job training, but usually must go through a short training program before getting certification from Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI).

Medical assistants have a particularly strong advantage if they choose to move into an EXG technician position. Most employers prefer that candidates have healthcare experience and training. Job growth for EKG technicians is projected to be about 7% between 2018 and 2028.

Medical Office Manager / Clinical Office Manager

This position may be found in hospitals, clinics, or medical facilities. The medical office manager may oversee the other MA’s, administrative functions, department oversight, making sure medical records are correctly filed, and other functions within the facility.

Medical and Health Services Manager

This position is an administrative role, usually within a hospital or nursing home facility. Some employers may require an undergraduate degree or equivalent. This position includes improving the efficiency of facility healthcare, keeping the facility code-compliant, integration of new technologies, managing staff and/or finances, or overseeing department budgets.

Health Information Manager / Health Information Technician

Health information managers (HIM) work with traditional and electronic health records (EHR) and are a connection point between hospital administrators, clinicians, technology creators, and information technology workers in medical facilities. This position requires clinical, administrative, and technological knowledge. Health information technicians acquire, analyze, protect, and look for larger trends in health records. You can find this position in hospitals, clinics, private practices, and nursing homes, as well as government agencies. A health information technician may need an associate degree. To become a health information manager, usually a bachelor’s or Master’s degree is required.

Take The Next Step: Start Your Medical Assistant Career

Becoming a Medical Assistant is a great way to start a career in the medical field, with many different ways to advance your career. If you want to take the first step towards this in-demand career, complete the Request Information form or call our Admissions team to learn more today!

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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