Entering the medical field is a rewarding opportunity, not to mention it’s a hot career track. If you want to become a medical assistant, you are certain to find an abundance of job opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical assistant jobs are projected to grow a whopping 16% (much faster than average) through 2031.
This career choice is an excellent one for people who don’t want to pursue a medical or nursing degree, but still want to contribute to helping others be in good health. You can work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, and other types of healthcare facilities either directly with patients or in operational areas. It’s common to find medical assistants wearing a number of different hats in their workplaces, which means there’s rarely, if ever, a monotonous schedule or a dull day.
The education you obtain to become a medical assistant also opens the door to building upon your knowledge at a later date should you decide to pursue additional education. To become a medical assistant, there will be several steps you must successfully complete. The staff at Casa Loma College is passionate about helping our students succeed.
Here we’ll outline what you need to know to complete your journey to becoming a medical assistant.
Graduate from High School or Obtain a GED
Before you can pursue higher education to become a medical assistant, you’ll need to earn your high school diploma or GED equivalent. Once you’ve achieved one of these, you’re on your way to the next step in the process.
Find the Right Medical Assistant School
Now that you’re ready to begin applying to post-secondary schools, the next step is to do some research to ensure you find the right match. Things to consider during the search process include:
- Location of school
- Cost/financial aid opportunities
- Time commitment
- School accreditation
- Career placement record
- Teaching and training styles
To begin this step, start contacting individual schools to ask questions and learn what each has to offer. After you’ve identified the best academic program for you, it’s time to apply.
Enroll in a Medical Assistant Program
After you have narrowed down a school that is the best fit and meets your preferences and/or criteria, it’s time to enroll. As you begin the enrollment process, you’ll likely want to apply for financial aid by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Obtain and/or Fine Tune Specific Skillsets for MA Jobs
To succeed in most healthcare positions, you’ll need to have a combination of hard and soft skills.
Depending upon the specific type of medical facility, individuals in this position may perform a variety of front-office/administrative skills such as updating and organizing medical charts, calling in prescriptions to pharmacies, tracking office inventory, ordering supplies, and general office management.
Medical assistants need a variety of clinical skills. Many will work with patient records, such as recording and updating medical histories. In the exam rooms, they’ll be preparing patients to be seen by doctors by changing bandages, removing stitches, and providing patients with information and instructions.
The MA certificate program at Casa Loma College puts emphasis on the clinical components of the job by instructing students on critical skills, including but not limited to:
- Taking and recording vital signs
- Collecting lab specimens & notifying patients of lab results
- Giving vaccinations
- Taking an EKG
- Assisting during a minor surgical procedure
By learning these hard skills you will become essential to your healthcare team and will have the opportunity to grow and advance in it.
Medical assistants typically also need to brush up on computer skills to obtain a certain level of proficiency since they’ll be heavily working with different software programs if they are involved with billing, bookkeeping, recordkeeping, and scheduling appointments.
The most successful medical assistants possess an array of soft skills. Since careers in the healthcare field are all about helping others as a part of a team, the following skills are good ones to possess.
- Good organization
- Attention to detail
- Strong time management
- Ability to collaborate with others
- Empathy and good listening skills
- Verbal and written communication
Medical assistants who are able to work under pressure as they juggle many tasks set themselves up for success in their jobs and best serve the individuals they provide care to.
Pursue Externships and Internships
Actively working in a healthcare facility is a great way to obtain clinical experience before obtaining a job. This way, you can apply your classroom knowledge to real-world situations and have hands-on experience.
Externships and internships are very similar in nature with a few differences. For instance, externships are typically completed in a few weeks (up to about two months) while internships often last many months. Both will provide you with a strong sense of how your daily tasks and work environment will be once you start your new job. Working in an externship/internship position with other healthcare professionals gives you a great opportunity to ask questions and get feedback. Many students are often hired by facilities after they graduate.
This step will vary from state to state or may be required by an employer. The Medical Board of California does have specific criteria for medical assistants to gain experience. You’ll want to at least meet the minimum criteria if not go above and beyond. In California, you can become a “Qualified” medical assistant by achieving certain milestones and passing an exam. Casa Loma College prepares its graduates to take the Certified Medical Assistant and Certified Electrocardiography Technician Exams. These certifications could potentially increase employment.
Research and Apply to Open Positions at Healthcare Facilities
If the facility where you completed an externship or internship offers you a job and this is the place you want to be, great! A good piece of this step will have already been completed. Not all facilities will offer jobs, however, or you also decide you’re interested in pursuing other types of job opportunities.
Once you graduate and earn your credentials, you can research healthcare facilities in the region(s) you prefer to work. As you search, consider the type of work environment you’d be happy working in. For example, do you want to work in a big hospital, or would you prefer a local small practice? Once you consider your preferences, you can find job openings and begin applying to open positions.
MA Jobs are in High Demand in California and Other States
Looking for a rewarding career in the healthcare field? Pursuing a position as a medical assistant may be exactly what you’re seeking. The medical field is actively seeking individuals who are passionate about patient care and possess the right credentials. In California, the average annual salary is $43,000 and this will vary based on experience and the type of medical facility you work in.
Ready to Begin Your Journey to Becoming a Medical Assistant?
If you’re ready to begin the exciting journey to becoming a medical assistant, Casa Loma has just the program you need. When you enroll in our certificate program, you’ll be ready to start your new career in as little as 32 weeks.
Casa Loma College is a non-profit college serving the Los Angeles professional healthcare community since 1966. We invite you to visit our website to learn more about our Medical Assistant Certificate Program. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about our medical assistant certificate or other educational opportunities, contact us today.