Medical assistants are valuable members of the medical team, and are mostly employed in doctor’s offices, though there are other jobs available. In places like the US there are organizations like the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) that represent medical assistants and may help with things like certification. In order to become a medical assistant, many people take exams offered jointly by the AAMA and the National Board of Medical Examiners.
The path to become a medical assistant for most people includes one to two years of post-secondary education in a community college, trade or vocational school. Not all people take training, and it used to be quite common for medical assistants to get on the job training instead by being employed in a doctor’s office. This may still be the standard in some countries. In the US today, this has changed significantly, and the majority of medical assistants have completed formal education and are certified (certified medical assistants or CMAs).
Certain types of jobs that medical assistants may perform could require additional training or certification. In many US states, for instance, drawing blood for blood tests may only be allowed if a person has trained in phlebotomy or has a phlebotomy certificate. These may be offered with the training at colleges or trade schools that help students become a medical assistant or some people must take a separate training course to get certification.
Those who wish to become a medical assistant, especially high school students, can start planning ahead by taking high school classes that will help. These include studies in math and science (particularly biology and chemistry). Math skills required generally include accounting skills up to second year algebra courses. Learning office skills is also important, and this means that training on computers can be valuable. Since a medical assistant may work in the back office (helping patients) or front office where they run an office or participate in running it, expertise in both medical and practical office skills are needed.
As mentioned, some people have on the job training to become a medical assistant but formal training is usually preferred. It may be far easier to find work if the assistant is certified and experienced. Though the employment outlook for this field is excellent with significant growth expected, those wishing to become a medical assistant should consider salary, which is typically not very high.
The average hourly wage in the late 2000s was approximately $13 US Dollars (USD). Those interested in medicine might contrast this to similar types of study, like those to become a licensed practical nurse. In the late 2000s hourly wage for licensed practical and vocational nurses was about $5 USD higher, and studies to become a nurse take about the same amount of time. However, some people truly prefer the blend of office skills and patient care that the medical assistant field offers.