how long does is take to become a medical assistantSo you want to become a medical assistant. Medical assistants perform clinical or administrative tasks to support the work of health professionals such as physicians. It takes one to two years to become a medical assistant. No matter how long it took to finish your course, medical assistants share the same duties, as this article reveals.

They perform routine procedures and tasks such as collecting and preparing body fluid tissues and fluids for laboratory testing, handling and preparing medical supplies and instruments, recording information in medical systems of record-keeping, administering injections and medications and measuring patients’ vital signs. Medical terminology is something medical assistants will need to know and you can get a head start with this course on basic medical terms.

One to Two Years: Your Education

A medical assistant’s job is one of the fastest growing occupations in the US, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS) Depending on how much energy and time you are able to invest, the time required to become a medical assistant will vary.

You can get a diploma or a certificate with a one year program, while two year programs lead to an associate’s degree. In addition, programs are offered in junior colleges, vocational schools and high schools. There are schools that offer a medical assistant program in most states.

For those aspiring to become medical assistant, there are two types of educational programs. Some schools offer a 1-year certificate program, while other schools offer a 2-year associates degree. Medical assisting post-secondary programs are offered in technical-vocational high schools, junior colleges, community colleges and post-secondary vocational schools.

Typically, the salary for those holding an associate’s degree is higher than the one that only holds a diploma. Many accredited programs for medical assisting require students to complete internships which enables students to gain a valuable first-hand experience.

To enter a program for medical assisting, you will need to apply to a college offering this course. Generally, to be accepted into a vocational or community college you will only need your GED or high school diploma.

For medical assistants, the coursework will include medical billing, first aid, science, math and medical terminology. Courses also cover insurance processing, accounting, record keeping, transcription, typing, physiology and anatomy. You also learn first aid, medical law, patient relations and office practices. Students become familiar with office practices, medical law and diagnostic as well as clinical procedures.

Certification: Add 2 Months to the Process

Employers prefer certified or experienced applicants. The process of certification can add 2 months to your timeline. To qualify for certification, you must have graduated from a program accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Next, you need to study in order to pass the Certification of Medical Assistant Certification Examination.

The certification exam is offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants three times a year in October, January and June. Your certificate needs to be renewed every 5 years. Not all employers require certification but typically, CMAs will have more work options than MAs. There are currently more than five hundred institutions offering 200 accredited programs for ABHES and 600 accredited programs for CAAHEP.

Getting Registered

There is a certification given by American Medical Technologists for those who want to become Registered Medical Assistants. Medical assistant graduates from programs that are accredited and have completed 5 years of work experience can take this certification.


Medical assistants perform routine administrative and clinical duties under a physician or health care professional’s direct supervision. There are many administrative duties performed by a medical assistant including handling book keeping and billing, arranging for laboratory services and hospital admissions, filling and updating the medical records of patients, greeting patients and answering telephones. Knowing a bit of medical English can help, which you can learn from this course.

Depending on jurisdiction and law, duties vary and might include recording vital signs and taking medical histories, preparing patients for examinations and explaining procedures of the treatment to patients. Duties also include assisting during diagnostic exams. Part of the medical assistant’s duties is to do the collection and preparation of specimens for the laboratory or on the premises, perform the basic lab tests. You will also need to assist patients with filling up health insurance forms, and taking a short course like this one about understanding HIPAA won’t hurt.

They also sterilize medical instruments and dispose of supplies that have been contaminated. They instruct patients about special diets and medications, administer and prepare the medications as directed, telephone prescriptions to a pharmacy, authorize drug refills as directed, prepare patients for x-rays, draw blood, remove sutures, take electrocardiograms and change dressings.

Medical Assistants also facilitate communications between other health care professionals and the patient. Some jurisdictions allow medical assistants to perform procedure that are more advanced such as taking x-rays or giving injections after taking a course and passing a test.

In the United States

Traditionally, in the United States, medical assistants have held jobs almost exclusively in clinics, urgent care facilities and ambulatory care centers. These days, however, medical assistants are now getting employed in outpatient and inpatient facilities, assisted living facilities and in both public and private hospitals. In some states such as Utah, there are almost no distinctions between a medical assistant and a surgeon’s assistant.

Both may assist the surgeon or physician in any capacity that is deemed appropriate by the supervising physician, including aspiration of hypodermic fat, infusing tumescent anesthesia, administering local anesthesia, directly supervising incisions and cosmetic procedures such as ablative laser dermal resurfacing. It goes without saying that knowing the appropriate medical terminology is a requirement, and with a course such as this one on medical language, it should be a breeze.

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