Get Started in Medical Assisting in California

With 10,000 baby boomers entering the Medicare age of 65 every day, the U.S. 65+ population, now comprising 15% of all Americans, is projected to double over the next decade. This rapidly aging group holds great promises for those entering the medical field at practically any level (specialist doctors, general physicians, nurses, medical assistants, and other). [Leer en español]
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Earning your diploma is a great first career step that embarks you into this vastly promising medical field. Medical assistants are critical to the effective functioning of most medical centers, whether in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and wherever else people go for their medical needs.

California State Requirements

There is a distinction in California between “medical assistant” and “certified medical assistant“. Medical assistants: For medical assistants, the State of California does not have any specific licensing or certification requirements, other than being aware of the regulations of the Medical Board of California. The Board empowers licensed health care providers, at their discretion, to train employees, either through a formal study program, or by way of hands-on training, or both. The licensed health practitioner can however require that the medical assistant they hire be certified. Certified medical assistants: There are three certifying boards that are approved by the Medical Board of California:
  • The California Certifying Board of Medical Assistants (CCMA) offers state certification once you pass the California Certified Medical Assistant Exam. The exam is in 3 parts with multiple-choice questions: Basic, Administrative, and Clinical. You must pass the Basic and one of the other two to be certified.
  • You can get a national certification as a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) by American Medical technologists (AMT). AMT provides a list of study requirements that lead to the exam you must pass to obtain your certification.
  • Or you can also get nationally certified as a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). They require that you first graduate from an accredited medical assisting program CAAHEP1 or ABHES2), then sit for their exam.

Job outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for medical assistants in the U.S. in 2016 was $15.79 per hour, or $32,850 per year, with a typical entry-level education of post-secondary vocational. For the entire country, the demand for assistants is estimated to grow by 23% over the period 2014 to 2014. There were 80,900 medical assistants in California in 2014, estimated to grow by 22,400 by 2024, for a total of 103,300. This represents a growth rate of 27.7% for those years.

Salaries for Medical Assistants in California

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), salary ranges are as follows: Overall mean hourly wage = $17.61 (this compares with $14.94 in Florida, $14.56 in Texas, and $17.08 in New York). The corresponding mean annual wage for California is $36,620. The California annual mean entry-level wage (lowest 10%) is $11.72 ($24,390 on an annual basis). This goes up to a mean hourly wage of $13.61 for the first 25% ($28,300 on an annual basis). The California annual median hourly wage for the first 25% is $16.65, increasing to $20.69 for the first 75% ($34,640 annually), and to $25.34 for the first 90% ($52,710 annually). The top 10% can naturally earn more. California entry-level (First 10%) wages break down into the following sample of regions:
  • Los Angeles: hourly mean wage of $17.21 ($35,800 annually)
  • Napa: hourly mean wage of $17.71 ($36,550 annually)
  • San Francisco: hourly mean wage of $22 ($45,130 annually)
  • San Diego-Carlsbad: hourly mean wage of $18 ($37,190 annually)
  • Stockton-Lodi: hourly mean wage of $15 ($32,030 annually)

Well-Known Schools in California

The first thing to do is pick from the list we provide those schools that are close to you and research them carefully. Generally, a one-year diploma at a vocational school costs $1,200-$4,000+, depending on each program. The same can cost $2,500-$10,000 for an associate’s degree at a community college. In view of these disparities, you will need to contact the school of your choice and ask about tuition costs and other expenses. Here though is a description of what a few typical schools offer: Milan Institute, Bakersfield: Located on 2822 F Street, Bakersfield, CA 93301 (888- 207-9460), and with other campuses in Fresno, Merced, Palm Desert, and Visalia, this institute offers a one-year (full-time) diploma, or a two-year (full-time) Medical assistant Associate Degree, considered a stepping stone to a Bachelor’s degree. This institute is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education. American Career College-Long Beach: Located at 236 East 3rd Street, Long Beach, CA, 90802, (562-206-0400), and with other campuses in Los Angeles, Lynwood, Ontario, and Orange County, this school enables you to receive a diploma in less than a year. You will have to first complete the Introduction to Healthcare course before embarking on course on Medical Assistant Responsibilities, Office Procedures and Clinical Practices, and other courses. This institute is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Glendale Community College: Located at 1500 N Verdugo Road, California, 91208, (818-551-5205), and with two other locations in Glendale, and one in Montrose, this is a large institution with programs in several fields. For medical assistants, they offer an undergraduate certificate that can be completed in 48 weeks during which students must complete at least 12 study units that are required for certification. This institute is accredited by the Western Association of schools and Colleges. Pasadena City College: Located at 1570 E Colorado Boulevard, California 91106, this is another substantial 2-year community college that offers diplomas and degrees ranging from Certificate, to Associate, Bachelor’s Master’s and even Doctorate. This college is accredited by the Western Association of schools and Colleges.

Employment Options

Employment options are plentiful in California. To cite just the one example of the San Diego area, there are numerous hospitals, specialized doctors’ offices and other medical centers to which you could apply. Here are but a few:
  • Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego
  • Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns
  • Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital
  • University of California
  • Lifewellness Institute
  • Dermatology & Laser of Del Mar
  • Chronic Care Management Inc.


1 CAAHEP refers to Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs 2 ABHES refers to Accredited Bureau of Health Education Schools

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How much do medical assistants earn in the state of California?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants in the state of California made an average of $40,120 per year in 2019. Entry-level medical assistants earned around $26,820 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $59,130.

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