Not all jobs within the medical world require years of education or thousands of dollars. Some, like medical assistants, can put you to work in just one year. Medical assistant jobs are booming, and the field is rapidly growing. You can easily search online right now for the best programs that could launch you into a full-time career in no time.

Becoming a medical assistant is rewarding, and it doesn’t require years of schooling and education costs. Fortunately, many of the best schools are now offering affordable online classes to help you get started right away.

What is a Medical Assistant? 

Medical assistants are entry-level health care professionals who provide administrative and clerical support across a variety of healthcare settings. Some medical assistants focus solely on administrative tasks like processing medical bills and scheduling appointments. Others focus solely on clerical duties like collecting patient samples and taking vitals. Some pull double duty by covering both areas. 

Why would someone opt to become a medical assistant instead of going to school to become a nurse or doctor? There are many advantages to becoming a medical assistant, including: 

  • Fast training. Earning the credentials that you need to become a medical assistant typically takes less than a year versus two to four years to become registered nurse.
  • Certified in all states. Unlike many medical professionals, medical assistants do not need to be licensed in individual states; upon becoming certified, they can work anywhere in the country.
  • Flexible work environments. Medical assistants often work in hospitals, but they also work in settings like nursing homes, chiropractor’s offices, doctor’s offices, outpatient surgery centers and even as home health aides.
  • Job security. Medical assistants are already in high demand–and demand continues to skyrocket. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics¹, or BLS, the field is expected to grow by 29 percent between 2016 and 2026 versus the average of 7 percent across all occupations.

How to Become a Medical Assistant

As far as becoming a medical assistant goes, it’s easier than you probably think. Here’s a basic rundown of what to expect. 

First, you’ll need to complete an accredited training program. Although some employers don’t require medical assistants to be certified, the vast majority do. To become certified, you’ll need to complete an accredited medical assistant training program. The right program will be accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, or CAAHEP, or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, or ABHES. Two-year associate’s degree programs are available too and may be advisable for those who want to move into more advanced roles later.

Once your education is complete, you’ll need to gain clinical experience. Many accredited training programs incorporate clinical training. Some require you to find your own internship or externship to complete the program. Even if clinical training isn’t required by your program, you should seek it out independently to put your training to work before officially entering the workforce.

Lastly, you’ll want to consider getting officially certified. To sit for a medical assistant certification exam, you need to have completed an accredited training program or be able to demonstrate that you have enough relevant work experience. The most common certification, Certified Medical Assistant, or CMA, is issued by the American Association of Medical Assistants, or AAMA. The National Healthcare Association, or NHA, offers Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, or CCMA, and Certified Medical Administrative Assistant, or CMAA, certifications.

How Much Can I Earn? 

Becoming a medical assistant is a great investment, especially when you consider the minimal training and educational requirements. These professionals enjoy competitive pay across the country. According to the BLS², the median annual wage for medical assistants as of May 2017 was $32,480, or $15.61 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earned $23,830 per year, or $11.46 per hour; the highest 10 percent earned $45,900 per year, or $22.07 per hour. 

Salaries for medical assistants also vary by work environment. Here are some examples: 

  • Outpatient facilities – $33,820 per year, or $16.26 per hour
  • Hospitals – $33,590 per year, or $16.15 per hour
  • Doctor’s offices – $32,710 per year, or $15.76 per hour

Jobs in This Field 

As stated previously, the medical assistant field is expected to grow by 29 percent between 2016 and 2026. This means that more than 183,900 new medical assistant jobs will be added during that time. These jobs span many specializations, so becoming a medical assistant is a great way to become qualified for a number of healthcare positions. Some examples include: 

  • Specialized Medical Assistant
  • EKG Technician
  • Hospital Unit or Ward Clerk
  • Phlebotomy Technician
  • Podiatric Medical Assistant

How to Become a Medical Assistant

As you can see, there isn’t too much time or financial investment involved in becoming a certified medical assistant. Given the competitive pay, job security and opportunities for advancement, you’re sure to find that the investment is more than worth it.

Still, there are hundreds of training programs around the country, and it’s important to find the right one. Likewise, there’s a variety of certifications for medical assistants, and it pays to figure out which ones are right for you. Therefore, plan on doing quite a bit of research before officially starting on this career path.

Like anything, it’s always a good idea to be aware of the latest research. We recommend comparing at least 3 or 4 options before making a final decision. Doing a search online is typically the quickest, most thorough way to discover all the pros and cons you need to keep in mind..