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What is Required to Become a Medical Assistant?

Majors Overview February 21, 2014

Those interested in working with nurses and doctors to treat and monitor patients should look into the medical assistant field. The first step to joining this field is a medical assistant Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree. Students will learn the skills to carry out clinical and administrative tasks, including taking vital signs or patient histories.

A.A. Programs for Medical Assistants

Schools commonly offer Associate degree programs in medical assisting as an Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Arts that is suitable for a person who seeks to enter the workforce immediately faster they graduate. Students enrolled in these programs can expect to become adept in subject areas such as general office practices, medical transcription, pharmacology, examination room procedures, and medical laboratory testing. Clinical training academies affiliated with hospitals, technical schools or community colleges typically offer these two-year programs.

Program Requirements

Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. Students enrolled in some programs are required to satisfy additional norms such as submission to a medical exam, supplying of immunization records and earning a CPR certification before they are allowed to enroll or participate in specific practicums or courses.


Coursework includes classes in and medical office procedures, pharmacology, record keeping, computer applications, and medical terminology. Supervised clinical training is imparted to students through externships, internships or labs. Coursework may also include topic areas such as:

•Medical law and ethics
•Lab procedures
•Human body systems
•Medical accounting
•Allied health informatics

Job and Wage Outlook

A job growth of 29% has been predicted for medical assistants during the decade from 2012 to 2022, making it one of the fastest growing occupations (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The fact that these professionals can handle both clerical and administrative duties makes medical secretaries coveted assets in the field. In 2012, medical assistants took home an average annual wage of $29,370 (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Those who graduate from the program can choose to join the workforce immediately or opt for continued education. Experience augmented by training can help these professionals seek teaching jobs aimed at training prospective medical assistants. Associate degree graduates could also look for careers in health information technology or nursing with suitable training that covers an eclectic mix of medical procedures and topics. While certification and licensure are not mandatory, volunteering for professional certification will help medical assistants demonstrate their skills and knowledge in the field to potential hirers who often show a preference for individuals with certified credentials (American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)).

Passage of a written exam will suffice to obtain professional certification from both the AAMA and the American Medical Technologists (AMT). Interested individuals can seek Medical assistant specialty certification through various credentialing agencies organizations including the Specialty Certified Medical Assistant that awards certification in a variety of disciplines, such as women’s health, pediatrics, oncology and cardiology.

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