Medical assistants are the backbone of healthcare offices, providing support to physicians and helping patients, and becoming one only takes as few as 10 months up to 2 years.
And certified medical assistants (CMAs)? They are medical assistants who went through an accredited school, and then passed a certifying exam, such as the Certified Medical Assistant test from the American Association of Medical Assistants.
Earning your certification doesn’t tack on much more time to your education—it’s one additional test—and it’s highly recommended to become certified. Keep reading to learn more about the time it takes to prepare for this career.
How Long Does Becoming A CMA Take?
CMA certificate programs are among the shortest form of training, and may take up to one year to complete at your local school, but many can be completed in as few as 10 months. An associate degree in medical assisting takes 1-2 years to finish.
Earning a medical assistant certificate can take as few as 10 weeks at some online schools, but that is an extremely accelerated pace. These programs may only cover the medical billing and coding aspect of medical assisting. Be careful with the legitimacy. Accreditation is a good place to start when checking out a school outside of our training partners.
Note: Some workplaces will let you can enter the field with just a high school diploma and on-the-job training. However, one of the best things you can do for your career is to go through a program at a vocational school or community college and then become certified. It may be more work upfront, but the benefits are worth it—in general, being certified opens you up to more job opportunities and can earn you higher pay throughout your career.
Responsibilities Of A Certified Medical Assistant
A CMA may do clinical and administrative tasks. Many times, you will be doing a mix of both, especially in smaller practices. In hospitals or specialized offices, you may find it more common to focus on one set role or the other.
Clinical certified medical assistants:
- Get patients up on the scale and note their weight
- Take blood pressure
- Ask initial questions during a visit for the doctor
- Handle urine or stool samples
- Tackle many other similar medical duties, like administering medicine, changing bandages, etc.
- Answer phones and set up appointments
- File paperwork and deal with insurance companies
- Fill out charts and records
- Help offices run smoothly
- Do billing and light bookkeeping, among plenty of other important organizational tasks
Besides doctors' offices and hospitals, you can also work your medical magic in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, for optometrists, chiropractors, labs—basically, the world is your oyster.
How Much Do CMAs Make?
Medical assisting is good, honest work, and the salary reflects it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pay for medical assistants ranges from $29,070 - $48,170, with the 2021 average pay at $38,190 (bls.gov). Earning your certification through a program that lasts less than 12 months adds a few thousand dollars more to your annual income. That’s vs. being uncertified, says survey results from the American Association of Medical Assistants, AAMA.
Get Training, Find A Job
Bls.gov also states that employment of medical assistants is projected to grow, and faster than the average for all occupations—18% through 2030. It’s a career in high demand, meaning finding a job can come easier for you than those in a more stagnant field.
And if you want to get your feet wet in the healthcare world, earn some money, and further your training later, a 1-2 year certified medical assistant program is a great way to start. Many CMAs later go on to become RNs, surgical techs, or hold a position in healthcare administration.
Find a local medical assistant school now.