In the medical industry, certified medical assistants (CMAs) are crucial to the quality of patient care and the efficiency of the healthcare environment in which they work. Are you interested in learning how to land a job as a Certified Medical Assistant? Luckily for you, there are just a few steps to take before jumping into the workforce.
What is a Certified Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants are not required to become certified or licensed and can work in various healthcare settings. They are typically responsible for prepping patients for examinations, taking medical histories, administering medication as needed, changing wound dressings, removing stitches, collecting samples for lab testing, and more, including coding medical services, preparing insurance forms, and other administrative duties.
However, becoming a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) is ideal for those who want to advance their skills and their career. Earning this certification allows these professionals to be eligible for more job opportunities and career advancements, and it also shows employers that they have a deep commitment to the profession.
CMAs can specialize their work to advance their career – chiropractic care, optometry, obstetrics and gynecology, cardiology, and more. They can also choose to specialize in the non-clinical side of medical assisting and become an administrative medical assistant. This type of CMA analyzes records, keeps track of patient data, determines insuring billing, schedules appointments, and much more.
Steps to Become a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
It generally takes about one to two years to become a CMA, unlike other roles within the healthcare industry. Follow these steps to land a job as a Certified Medical Assistant:
- High School Diploma or GED. You must hold a high school diploma or attain a GED to become a CMA. Also consider volunteering at a local clinic, medical office, etc., to experience the work environment and prepare for advanced programs.
- Medical Assistant Program. Most employers prefer medical assistants who earn the American Association for Medical Assistants (AAMA) certification, or similar credentials through another accredited organization. The AAMA requires that medical assistants complete an accredited medical program before certification. In fact, AAMA states that only those who graduate from medical assisting programs by CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) or ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools) are eligible to take the CMA certification examination. It is important to note that there are several different professional certifications for medical assistants, depending on whether you want to go into the clinical side of medical assisting or take an administrative focus. Each certification has its own exam. Research the healthcare organizations in your area to see if they prefer a particular certification. If not, choose the one that fits your goals.
- Externship or Internship. For on-the-job experience, consider participating in an externship or internship. These supervised (and generally unpaid) positions allow you to prepare for life as a CMA and know what types of healthcare settings you’d like to work in.
- CMA Examination. After you have your high school diploma or GED and have graduated from an accredited medical assistant program, you are eligible to take the CMA exam. It is important to prepare for this test – you may even want to take a review course and practice exams to better your chances of passing.
- Maintain Credentials. Certifications in medical assisting are not valid forever – you must keep your certification current to remain an attractive candidate for new jobs or promotions. How long your certification lasts depends on what type you have, as do the requirements. However, most certifications for medical assistants require retaking and passing the exam or earning a specific number of continuing education credits.
Remember – the requirements to become a CMA may differ from state to state. Contact your local medical board to understand the requirements where you live.
If you have already earned your credentials and are struggling to find work, a healthcare staffing agency can help you land a job as a Certified Medical Assistant. These recruiters typically have close relationships with various healthcare employers in the area and can help connect you with the right working environment.
For more advice on finding work as a certified medical assistant, browse our blog!