How to Become a Medical Assistant: 5 Steps You Can't Skip
Helping people has always been in your genes. Whether you were the one toting Band-Aids over to your friend who just tumbled off her bike, or you were addicted to medical dramas throughout college, everyone knows you’ve been destined for a career in the medical field since childhood.
If you’re interested in getting on the fast track for a career in healthcare, but you don’t want to be in school for years and years, you probably already know that a job as a medical assistant would be ideal for you. These necessary team members complete administrative and clinical tasks around the doctor’s office, hospital, or medical facility, assist with patient examinations, measure vital signs, and much more.
The road to a career as a medical assistant varies depending on where you live, but no matter what city you call home, you’ll need training, a variety of important skills, and potentially, certification, to nail a job as an MA. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about how to traverse the path, don’t despair!
Take a look at our 5-step guide to becoming a medical assistant, and get ready for the career of your dreams.
Your 5-step guide to becoming a medical assistant
1. Start with postsecondary education
While not all states require formal educational requirements to land a job as a medical assistant, you’ll certainly set yourself up as the pick of the litter if your application indicates you’re a college graduate.
Thankfully, you don’t necessarily have to attend a four-year school to get the instruction and healthcare knowledge you need. Many community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and universities have MA programs that only take one to two years to complete. You’ll get lab experience, and the medical terminology you’ll walk away with help with confusion you might experience had you jumped right into a career.
2. Assess your skill set
In the world of healthcare, hiring managers look for a certain skill set when hiring medical assistants. Analytical by nature, MAs should be detailed-oriented and extremely precise, as they often read medical charts, diagnoses, and code medical records. Besides the technical skills needed to handle medical tools and take patients’ vital signs, medical assistants should also possess interpersonal skills as they often work with patients and family members.
3. Get certified
Depending on the state you want to work in, you may not need to be certified for a career as a medical assistant — but again, doing so will only make you a star candidate when you apply for a position.
The National Commission for Certifying Agencies offers five certifications for medical assistants, and all require the passing of an exam to gain licensure. Whether or not you have to graduate from a specific program, take a specific exam, or complete a particular set of training truly depends on the medical facility you want to work in. Consider getting certified — not only will your employer be more confident in your skills, but you’ll feel more self-assured as well.
4. Learn from on-the-job training
It’s no secret that kinesthetic learning can be some of the best training around. On-the-job training is a must for most careers, and medical assisting is no exception. If you don’t have postsecondary education, you’ll most likely learn the necessary medical terminology, handling of instruments, office processes, and how to interact with patients from your employer.
Every healthcare facility is a little different, so depending on the type of place you’re working, it will probably take several months or even longer to feel like you’re successfully completing your MA tasks.
5. Choose a location, apply & interview!
No matter what sort of training you have, it’s to your benefit to reach out, take initiative, and pursue the type of career you want. If you’re willing to move, that could affect the steps you need to take to become an MA as well. Keep combing through your resume, rehearsing your responses for interviews, and polishing your technical skills.
It also doesn’t hurt to apply to a wide variety of places. You’re the one in charge of your future, and you get to decide the type of place you end up working. When you go in for your interview, you may find that you enjoy the work environment more than you thought you would.
It’s time to make your move
The more you can set yourself apart from other potential candidates the better. Taking the proper steps to gain experience, training, and skills will only benefit you in the end.
Channel that desire to help others and get started on working toward your career in healthcare today! There’s no doubt that there will be work involved, but with the right amount of passion and perseverance, you’ll be working with patients before you know it.