A certified medical assistant (CMA) is an allied healthcare professional who works in a medical office or clinic. Their core responsibility is to assist physicians and other healthcare providers with patient care.
Their administrative and clinical duties include preparing patients for exams, taking vital signs, recording medical histories, filling out medical records, administering medications, and assisting with basic laboratory tests.
The profession of medical assisting dates back to the early 20th century. Since then, the field of medical assisting has evolved to include formal education and certification programs. Modern CMAs are trained to have the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their duties effectively.
In this article, we will discuss the career path of a CMA, the steps you need to take to become a CMA, the current job market, and employment opportunities.
CMA Career Path and Demand
Medical assistants are very much needed in the healthcare industry. They help ensure efficient patient care and make sure that everything runs smoothly.
Medical assistants provide a crucial link between patients and healthcare providers by completing administrative and clinical tasks that are essential for patient care.
The growing demand for CMAs
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assisting is one of the nation’s fastest-growing careers, with a projected employment rate of 861,300 in 2023.
The demand is being driven by various factors, including the aging population and increasing healthcare needs. As the population ages, there is a growing demand for healthcare services, which leads to an increased need for healthcare providers, including medical assistants.
Moreover, with the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, there is a greater need for healthcare services to manage and treat these conditions.
Medical assistants play a crucial role in this regard. They assist with recording medical histories, performing basic laboratory tests, and providing education and support to patients and their families.
Another factor driving the demand for medical assistants is the increasing complexity of healthcare services. As healthcare services become more complex, there is a need for additional support staff to help manage patient care and ensure that patients receive appropriate treatments and follow-up care.
Analysis of regional and national job markets for medical assistants
The medical assisting job market is generally positive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment to grow 16% from 2021 to 2031. This is much faster than average for other occupations.
The job market for medical assistants can vary regionally and nationally, based on factors such as population growth, aging demographics, and healthcare industry growth. Generally, larger, more populated states, such as California, Texas, and Florida have more job opportunities for medical assistants than rural, less populated areas.
Steps To Become A Medical Assistant
- Complete a medical assistants training program: To become a medical assistant, you will need to complete a medical assistants training program at your school of choice. These programs typically take between three months and two years to complete, depending on the type of program you choose.
- Job shadowing and internship experience: Thereafter, you will need to consider job shadowing and internships. These opportunities provide you with exposure to the daily responsibilities of medical assistants and can help with networking.
- Networking and job search strategies: Once you’ve gained some practical experience in the field, it’s time to look for a job. You can search on online job boards, enquire at staffing agencies, and send direct applications to the companies you are interested in.
Specializing in one niche with certification
- Clinical Medical assistant: To become a CMA, you need to complete a training program and get hands-on training in the medical field before searching for a job.
- Medical administrative assistant: To become a medical administrative assistant, you need to complete a relevant medical office administration program before taking a Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) exam.
- Registered medical assistant: To become a registered medical assistant (RMA), you will also need to complete an accredited Medical Assistant training program. You will then need to pass the RMA certification exam.
- Certified medical assistant: To become a certified medical assistant, you will need to complete an accredited Medical Assisting Program. You will then need to pass the CMA Certification Exam to receive your certification.
Advancement opportunities for medical assistants
- Becoming a supervisor or manager: With supervisory experience and strong communication and leadership skills, it’s possible for medical assistants to advance to supervisory or management positions. Sometimes, professional certification is needed to assume one of these positions.
- Pursuing additional education to become a nurse or physician’s assistant: Medical assistants who wish to become nurses can complete a nursing education program and will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
- Similarly, medical assistants can complete a physician assistant program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) to become physician assistants.
- Starting a business as a medical assistant: It’s possible for medical assistants with an entrepreneurial spirit to start up their own businesses. For example, starting up their own medical billing and coding business.
Medical Assistant Job Opportunities
Medical assistants typically work in hospitals, clinics, private practices, and nursing homes. Specific medical assisting duties may differ according to the healthcare facility or medical office in which they work.
Job responsibilities of medical assistants in different settings
- Hospitals: Hospitals need medical assistants to help support physicians, improve efficiency, and provide quality patient care. They may carry out basic clinical duties such as taking vital signs or administering injections. They may also help with administrative tasks such as filling out medical records and organizing patient files.
- Clinics: Medical assistants in clinics complete the same tasks as medical assistants in hospitals. Their main responsibility is to assist healthcare providers with administrative and clinical duties.
- Private practices: A medical assistant who works at a medical practice helps greatly with workload and patient care by assisting with everyday administrative and clinical tasks.
- Nursing homes: Medical assistants who work in nursing homes are likely to help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, and grooming, amongst other clinical and admin duties, such as filling out medical records and assisting with basic laboratory tests.
Tips for finding medical assistant job openings
- Job boards and search engines: Looking on job boards and search engines is one of the most common ways to find job openings. When doing this, make sure to use specific keywords, such as “medical office assistant,” “clinical assistant,” or “healthcare assistant” to find relevant job postings.
- You will also need to check job boards regularly. Indeed, Glassdoor and Monster are great sites to search on. Make sure to sign up for email alerts on these sites so you are notified as soon as a new job posting that matches your search criteria is added.
- Networking and referrals: Networking can also be a great way to find medical assistant job openings. You can do this by attending job fairs to meet potential employers. You can also join professional organizations such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) to meet more people in the industry.
- Asking for referrals is an easy way to increase your chances of getting hired. Reach out to friends, family, and colleagues and ask if they know of any job openings or can refer you to someone who does.
- Working with staffing agencies: Working with staffing agencies can also be a helpful way to find medical assistant job openings. Firstly, do your research on staffing industries that specialize in healthcare and send in your resume and cover letter. The agency will then do the work for you and notify you of any potential job openings.
Medical Assistant Salary and Job Outlook
The salary and job outlook for medical assistants are important considerations for individuals interested in pursuing this career path.
Salary expectations: The median annual wage for medical assistants was $37,190 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,070, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $48,170. Those who earned in the higher bracket worked at outpatient care centers while those who earned within the lower bracket worked at offices of chiropractors.
Job outlook: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for medical assistants looks promising. There is an expected 16% growth rate from 2021 to 2031, which is significantly higher than the average growth rate for all occupations.
On average, there are estimated to be around 117,800 job openings each year for medical assistants over the next decade. The majority of these openings are likely to arise from the need to replace workers who move to other fields or retire from the labor force.
Comparison of salaries in different states and regions
The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, by state, the top three highest-paying states for medical assistants are Washington, Washington D.C., and Alaska. The annual mean wage in these states ranges from $46,390 to $47,320.
The top paying metropolitan areas were recorded as Vallejo-Fairfield, CA, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA, to name a few. CMAs in these regions earned between a range of $53,870 to $58,670.
The demand for medical assistants has increased significantly in recent years. Hospitals, clinics, and other medical practices need CMAs for various clinical and administrative duties, such as maintaining medical records and administering medications.
With relevant training and experience, CMAs are open to many different paths in this field. This includes opportunities for advancement in a medical office or organization.
What are the career advancement opportunities for medical assistants?
Medical assistants can advance their careers by obtaining additional education and certification. For example, they could complete a nursing or physician assistant program. Alternatively, they could work their way up to supervisory or management positions.
How can medical assistants advance their careers and increase their salaries?
Medical assistants can gain experience and get training in specialized areas to increase their salaries. They can also make use of networking as a way to pursue more senior positions that pay higher.
What education and training are required for career advancement as a clinical medical assistant?
Some training programs and specialized courses that CMAs can take to advance their careers include the Certified Phlebotomy Technician Exam Review, the Electronic Health Records Specialist Program, and the Medical Billing and Coding Program.