Certified medical assistant jobs are on the rise. Healthcare facilities are looking for ways to streamline their operations and provide better patient care. One of the ways they’re doing this is by hiring versatile medical assistants. Medical assistants complete a range of jobs within healthcare settings. This includes both administrative and clinical tasks.
In this guide, you can explore everything you need to know about becoming a certified medical assistant. We’ll also explore the various career opportunities available in this field.
Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant
Training and the completion of a certified examination are required to start working as a medical assistant. Several educational facilities across the country offer the necessary CMA certification course.
Eligibility criteria for becoming a CMA
All you need to be eligible for a CMA course is a high school diploma. Although it’s not essential, a high school science and maths education will help you become a CMA.
How to become a CMA:
- To become a CMA, you need to first enroll in a medical assistants training program. Here, you’ll learn the basics of the job and also complete clinical tasks.
- Next, you need to attain a CMA certification. This certification can be arranged through several agencies, including the American Association of Medical Assistants.
- You can now gain experience as a medical assistant. Once you hone your skillset, you could apply for a full-time role in the field.
Skills and Qualities Required for Certified Medical Assistant Jobs
The required skills and qualities of a medical assistant are varied and diverse. To organize them, we’ve split them into two categories: hard and soft skills.
As a medical assistant, you must know how to perform basic medical procedures. This is so you can assist physicians during examinations and also record data accurately later.
You need to have a good grasp of the following procedures:
- Collecting lab specimens
- Taking vital signs
- Drawing blood
- Taking blood samples
- Changing bandages
- Sterilizing instruments
- Giving vaccinations
- Administering medications
In addition to this, you also need to have a strong understanding of medical terminology. This is so you can effectively communicate with physicians, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
Medical assisting involves a lot of administrative work. This includes taking phone calls, booking appointments for patients, and handling medical records. There are also several specialized administrative tasks you’ll have to complete.
These specialized tasks include carrying out coding and billing procedures. This involves taking information on a patient’s diagnosis and coding it accordingly. This is done so that the patient’s insurance company can be accurately billed.
Another task that may require specialized training is creating medical transcriptions. This is the act of converting medical audio reports to a document.
You’ll also likely be tasked with inventory management. This involves you overseeing all stock and medical equipment, and organizing repairs and replacements as necessary.
As a certified clinical medical assistant, you’ll be expected to have high technical proficiency. Each medical facility is different, but all use some form of medical management software. This includes the likes of Luma Health and NextGen Healthcare EHR. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are also used widely.
So, to successfully enter medical records, arrange appointments, and carry out billing and coding, technical proficiency is required.
Medical assistant positions involve a lot of talking. This position puts you at the crossroad between patients and healthcare professionals. You also need to correspond with patients’ families and insurance companies.
You need to verbally welcome patients into the medical facility and also communicate data to doctors and nurses. This requires strong and versatile communication skills.
An extension of your communication skills is your ability to empathize with patients. You are the medical personnel that patients communicate through most. So, you need to try as much as possible to make them feel at ease.
Attention to detail
Taking on a certified medical administrative assistant role requires you to have the utmost attention to detail. Whether you are updating electronic health records or slotting a patient in for an appointment, care needs to be taken when entering details.
If you fail to record patients’ personal information accurately, they may not receive the healthcare they need.
Lastly, problem-solving plays a big part in medical assisting. Lots of things can go wrong in a medical setting, and quick critical thinking is required to resolve issues. As the gatekeeper of medical information, it’s your job to use your data and critical thinking skills to come up with solutions to unexpected issues.
The only way you can prepare for this is through organization. That, and remaining vigilant for things going wrong in the medical facility.
How to acquire and develop these skills
You can acquire these skills by enrolling in a CMA certification course. You can further develop them by volunteering as a medical assistant and then progressing into a full-time position.
CMA responsibilities are constantly developing. So, you should consider the development of these skills as an ongoing thing.
Career Opportunities for Certified Medical Assistants
Once you attain your medical assistants’ certification, a whole host of job opportunities can open up to you, across various facilities.
Types of healthcare facilities that hire CMAs
Typically, medical assistants work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, and physicians’ offices. You can also find medical assistants in the following healthcare facilities:
- Medical labs – Medical assistants are required in clinical laboratories to help with blood, tissue, and other basic laboratory tests. A strong understanding of medical terminology is required for this role.
- Ambulatory care facility – Medical assistants are needed to help outpatient care centers with patients who do not require overnight stays. They are required to help with medical diagnoses, treatment, observation, and rehabilitation.
- Retirement communities – Bigger nursing homes will need medical assistants to help organize medication and administer it. They may also be required for overseeing inventory and managing computer systems.
Job roles, specializations, and responsibilities of CMAs
The job roles that a CMA certificate could land you include:
Medical office assistant
Mostly a behind-the-desk role, medical office assistants keep wards and healthcare facilities organized. They take care of scheduling, medical billing, insurance claim filing, and accounting.
Clinical medical assistant
A clinical medical assistant will run laboratory tests, sterilize equipment, and properly dispose of used supplies. This is in addition to standard medical office assistant responsibilities.
Medical claims examiner
Medical claims examiners mostly work on billing and coding patients’ insurance claims. Their main responsibility is to fill out forms and ensure the information is 100% correct.
Health unit clerk
Health unit clerks are responsible for filing medical records, patient records, and laboratory reports. Sometimes, the health unit clerk will be asked to prepare unit supplies. This job role also involves general clerk responsibilities, such as answering phone calls and distributing mail.
A phlebotomy technician can take blood samples from patients and donors. Once the sample has been taken, phlebotomy technicians update medical records and store samples accordingly. These technicians also prepare equipment and explain procedures to patients.
EKG technicians focus on the treatment of cardiovascular conditions. They do this by implementing special equipment to carry out telemetry monitoring tests, stress tests, and other diagnostic tests.
Alongside general clerical duties, a nursing assistant will assist a nurse in performing routine tasks. This includes taking vital signs, as well as bathing, feeding, and dressing.
Advancement opportunities for CMAs
Medical assistants have many career advancement opportunities after successfully working in the job role. Prospective advancement opportunities include the following:
- Registered nurse
- Licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse
- Medical laboratory technologist
- Surgical technologist
- Health services manager
For all of the above, you’ll have to enroll in a college degree or complete an approved nursing program.
Alternatively, medical assistants can be promoted within the medical facility they work for. This includes advancing to become an office manager, practice manager, or billing supervisor.
Job Outlook and Salary for Certified Medical Assistant Jobs
The job outlook and average salary growth for certified medical assistants are looking particularly prosperous in the coming years.
Growth rate and demand for CMAs in the healthcare industry
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistant employment is set to rise by 16% by 2031. This is above the average for predicted job growth in the US over the next 10 years. With this in mind, it’s safe to assume that medical assisting is a promising career path.
Average salary and earning potential for CMAs
Based on the same data provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for medical assistants is $37,190 per year.
Factors affecting salary and job outlook for CMAs
The two main factors that affect medical assistants’ salaries are experience and the practice specialty of the candidate.
However, it’s unlikely that someone who has completed the certified medical assistant program would struggle to find a job.
The more medical certifications you have attained, the more likely you are to land a job in medical assisting.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between a certified medical assistant and a registered nurse?
Registered nurses are primarily patient care-focused. While medical assistants may provide support for patient care, it is not their primary focus. The primary focus of medical assistants tends to be more clerical.
What is the average salary for certified medical assistants?
The average salary for certified medical assistants is $37,190 per year. This divides into roughly $17.88 per hour. With the job outlook for medical assistants looking healthy, this average salary is predicted to increase in the coming years.
How can I find job opportunities as a certified medical assistant?
Upon completing your medical assisting certification, you could check if your institution can help you find a medical assistant role. Institutions are normally well-linked with medical centers and can find medical assistant jobs easily.