medical team outside building

Working as a medical assistant doesn’t require extensive education, but you will likely need to complete a postsecondary training program. While it’s technically possible to become a medical assistant right out of high school and be taught skills on the job, many health care employers favor hiring candidates who have earned at least a medical assisting diploma or certification.

Paths to Becoming a Medical Assistant

Medical Assisting Diploma

A medical assisting diploma will give you plenty of theoretical knowledge and the hands-on skills you’ll need to work as a medical assistant. You’ll learn important administrative and clinical skills to perform your duties successfully.

Many medical assisting programs can be completed online, but on-campus classes are available as well. Consider a program that offers a variety of learning environments, like online classes, labs and an externship that will allow you to gain both theoretical and practical experience.

Typically, earning a medical assisting diploma takes anywhere from 10 months to two years.

Medical Assisting Associate Degree

Taking your education a step further by getting a medical assisting associate degree can set you apart from other job candidates. You’ll likely be considered more qualified for entry-level medical assisting positions and your scope of responsibilities may be more diverse and impactful.

An associate degree is also a great steppingstone to furthering your education and advancing in your career. For example, holding a health care-related associate degree makes you eligible to pursue more advanced degrees in the future, like a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration. On average, a medical assisting associate degree takes four semesters to complete.

Do I Need to Get Certified to Become a Medical Assistant?

This largely depends on your employer’s preferences and the state you wish to work in. For example, the state of Missouri doesn’t require medical assistants to be certified. However, getting your certification helps you stand out among other job seekers and tells employers you’re committed to your new career.

There are two exams you can choose from to become certified: the Certified Assistant (CMA) exam and the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam. Both test your knowledge on topics like physiology, medical terminology and legal compliance.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical assistants provide crucial support to a medical practice by performing both patient care and administrative duties. Patient care responsibilities usually involve things like:

  • Taking patient vitals
  • Taking notes of symptoms
  • Administering medications
  • Collecting and preparing lab samples
  • Drawing blood
  • Assisting doctors and nurses during medical examinations
  • Removing stiches and performing wound care

A medical assistant’s administrative duties typically entail:

  • Scheduling patient appointments
  • Updating medical records
  • Coding
  • Handling billing and insurance forms

With growing numbers of aging baby boomers requiring medical care, the demand for medical services continues to be on the rise. As a result, the medical assistant profession is expected to grow 18 percent by 2030.

Where Can I Work as a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants can be found in a wide range of medical settings. You’d likely be working at a doctor’s office, a hospital or an outpatient facility, such as a primary care clinic, urgent care or an ambulatory surgery center. Medical assistants may also find employment at dental clinics and nursing homes.

Study at St. Louis College of Health Careers to Become a Medical Assistant

If you’re interested in a career in the medical field, St. Louis College of Health Careers has the right programs to help you achieve your professional goals.

We provide several educational opportunities for students seeking careers in health care, whether you’re interested in becoming a medical assistant or a nurse practitioner.

Our accredited and comprehensive medical assistant programs prepare you for a rewarding career and make you eligible to take the national Certified Medical Assistant examination. Explore our MA diploma and MA associate programs to decide which option is best suited for your professional goals and aspirations.

You can learn more about our programs by visiting our St. Louis and Fenton campuses, calling us at 866-529-2070 or by filling out the form on our website.

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