How Do I Become a Front Office Medical Assistant?

T. L. Childree

A front office medical assistant is responsible for updating patient records and completing insurance forms, as well as answering phones and setting appointments. You must possess basic clerical skills and be able to interact well with other people to pursue this career. A one- or two-year formal training program should also be completed before you become a front office medical assistant, in addition to professional certification which is required in many regions. After completing your training and certification, you should be able to find employment at a physician’s office, medical laboratory, or hospital.

A front office medical assistant should take courses in filing and record keeping.
A front office medical assistant should take courses in filing and record keeping.

A variety of different clerical skills are needed to become a front office medical assistant. You should take computer training and keyboard typing classes during high school to prepare for this career, as well as courses in basic bookkeeping and filing. If possible, become familiar with medical record-keeping software before graduating from high school. In addition to these clerical skills, you must also have a good disposition and friendly personality to work in this profession.

Some front office medical assistants work with patients directly.
Some front office medical assistants work with patients directly.

A certain amount of formal training is also needed to become a front office medical assistant. You must be taught medical record coding and billing, as well as insurance processing and medical report transcription to succeed in this career. This type of medical assistant training typically lasts from one to two years and is available from many different community colleges and technical institutes. It may also be possible to complete your formal training online. One-year training programs typically issue a certificate of completion, while two-year schools offer an associate’s degree upon completion.

Professional certification is also required in many local regions. It may also be a good idea to pursue voluntarily certification to improve your employment prospects. In the United States, the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers a widely-recognized certification to qualified professionals. You must complete a medical assistant training program from an accredited institution and successfully complete a written examination to be certified. Study materials and practice exams are available at the AAMA website.

After completing your formal training and certification, seek an entry-level position as a front office assistant to acquire practical work experience. You will probably be assigned simple duties such as answering phones, filing, and greeting patients until you gain more experience. Once you become familiar with general office procedures, you will be allowed to schedule appointments, complete insurance forms, and keep medical records. While many find employment at a medical laboratory, hospital, or physician’s office, other potential employers include nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and universities.

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