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What is a Medical Assistant and How Can YOU Become One

If you’re interested in a career in medical offices that you can start fast, a Medical Assisting program may be right for you. Learn more about this exciting career.

Learn if Medical Assisting is Right for You

For those interested in joining the fast-paced world of a medical office without the years and years of training medical school would require, medical assisting can be a good career option. A medical assistant plays a vital role in many medical offices, hospitals and outpatient care centers.

Medical assistants help patients and physicians throughout a medical office or clinic. They combine interesting medical work, such as taking vitals or administering medication, with day-to-day tasks of a medical office, such as scheduling appointments or completing clerical work.

Whether working in medicine has been a long-held dream, or you’re newly interested in the field, here’s everything you need to know about medical assisting and how to become a medical assistant.

Why Become a Medical Assistant?

Medical assisting can be a rewarding career both mentally and financially. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care jobs overall are expected to grow 14% between 2018 and 2028, adding 1.9 million jobs.1 Health care is expected to grow faster than any other industry over the coming years, in part because of a Baby Boomer population that needs more medical attention as they age.

Medical assistants are an even faster-growing employment opportunity than health care overall. The BLS reports that nationally, medical assistant employment is expected to grow 23% between 2018 and 2028, with 686,600 jobs in 2018 and another 154,900 expected to be added by 2028.2

According to the BLS, the national demand for medical assistants can be attributed to longer lifespans and an aging population. As Americans age, they demand more preventive medical services, often provided by physicians. As a result, according to the BLS, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties. By using more medical assistants, doctors would be able to see more patients by lightening their workload.3

Additionally, according to the BLS, an increasing number of group practices, clinics, and other healthcare facilities will also need support workers, particularly medical assistants, to complete both administrative and clinical duties. Medical assistants work mostly in primary care, a steadily growing sector of the healthcare industry.3

Medical Assistant Salary

According to the BLS, the national median annual wage for medical assistants was $34,800 in May 2019, or $16.73 per hour. This is in line with the average for medical support workers. The lowest 10% of medical assistants earned less than $25,820, and the highest 10% earned more than $48,720.4

In May 2019, the median annual wages for medical assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:4

  • Outpatient care centers: $36,810
  • Hospitals; state, local, and private: $36,080
  • Offices of physicians: $34,870
  • Offices of chiropractors: $30,870

Skills for Medical Assistants

There are many different factors that can make one well suited to be a medical assistant. Some skills are personal and need to be cultivated outside a classroom, such as effective communication, organization, and empathy, while others can be taught, like how to take a blood pressure reading.

Some soft skills medical assistants need are:6

  • Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others’ actions.
  • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people.
  • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Time Management — Managing one’s own time and the time of others.
  • Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
  • Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
  • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules such as patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures or mathematical operations.
  • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Time-Sharing — The ability to shift back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information.

How to Become a Medical Assistant

While certain aspects of becoming a medical assistant can be regulated by state, generally there are a few ways to become one. Here are the steps to become a medical assistant.

  1. Complete a medical assisting program

    Complete a medical assisting program at a community college, vocational school or technical school. Programs can take as little as one year and typically deliver a diploma or certificate. Some programs can be extended to award an associate degree.

  2. Obtain a license.

    While most states do not require medical assistants to be certified, some employers may be more willing to hire those who are. Some agencies that certify medical assistants include:

    • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants8
    • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists9
    • National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing10
    • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association11
    • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association11
  3. Receive on-the-job training.

    While it is possible to skip an education program and just receive on-the-job training, it may be beneficial to attend a medical assisting program. Even after an education, though, you will likely receive training in how your particular employer prefers things to be done.

What to Look for in a Medical Assisting Program

Choosing the right school to pursue medical assisting is a big decision. The right training can open doors for better jobs and possibly salary down the line. While many institutions may offer medical assisting classes, it’s important that you look for the one that fits your goals and lifestyle.

A few core things to look for when considering Medical Assisting programs include:

  • Small class sizes. When learning to be a medical assistant you want individual attention from your instructor.
  • Hands-on training. When dealing with tasks like taking blood pressure, drawing blood, or administering injections, it’s important that you have time to practice those skills hands-on.
  • Externships or career training. Most programs include an opportunity to learn in the real world before you even graduate! You’ll earn an impressive experience that looks great on your resume.
  • Cost. Education is a major investment, but it’s an investment in your future. At Carrington College and many other institutions, we participate in most financial assistance programs, both federal and state, as well as private financing. Student loans, grants, and scholarships are available to those who qualify. For complete information on current tuition costs, please see the academic catalog.

Launch a Career in Medical Assisting With Carrington College

Carrington College is an expert in turning out highly trained medical assistants who should be ready to enter the work world. Carrington College features small class sizes, hands-on training, skills labs and a world-class faculty. Learn more about the Carrington Medical Assisting program.


Carrington College’s Medical Assisting Students and Faculty

Carrington College takes great pride in its faculty and students. Faculty are experts in their field, most of whom have real-life experience working in medical facilities.

Our students come from many backgrounds but are driven to succeed. Whether you’re just starting your education or your transitioning to a new career, you’ll find students like yourself at Carrington.

One Medical Assisting student, Karla Alday Montiel says

“There has never been a dull moment for me at school. I always look forward to going to school every day and to learn new things.”

She enjoys staying after school to study with friends; they help each other when someone has difficulty or questions about the work.

Find Medical Assisting Schools Near Me

Our Medical Assisting program is available in 16 locations around the country including locations in Arizona, California, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Find a location near you.


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