Requirements to becoming a Medical Assistant in 2021

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In the United States, over 200,000 Medical Assistants are employed in a wide range of medical facilities, from small private practices to large hospitals. Is this role a good fit for you? Let’s take a look at the current job market and what future opportunities may be available.

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for medical assistants is expected to grow by 39% between 2016 and 2026. As Healthcare continues to evolve, these professionals will play an integral part in improving patient care. 

The medical assistant profession has come a long way since its establishment. One major milestone was achieved in 2002 when Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) was established as the only nationally recognized certification within America. The next step came in 2012 when the CMA credential became the only national certification option available to medical assistants in all 50 States. In 2017, a new certification called Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) was introduced. 

The RMA Certification is currently being offered by two commercial companies that provide an exam and requires continuing education credits to maintain the credential. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics does not recognize this credential at this time. Hence, job seekers need to know about these distinctions to assess their current qualifications against future requirements. According to a 2019 survey conducted by AMT, 57% of employers require both certifications, which means increased competition among candidates seeking employment after the next few years.

It is also important to note that some states such as New York and California, already require the RMA credential to practice independently. This will be a growing trend we expect to see in more states during 2021 and beyond.

Individuals who want to become a medical assistant but do not meet the educational requirements outlined by their state must also consider obtaining employment at an advanced practice clinic, such as Nurse Practitioners or Physicians Assistants. While this requires additional education, it may be a good alternative since these Health Care professionals are recognized for their abilities across all 50 States. 

If you plan to pursue job opportunities with any health care provider level (including HMO’s, Insurance Companies, Hospitals), please make sure your certifications are up-to-date and verified on your resume before applying to open positions.

Employers want their employees focused on patient care, which means health care providers understand that Medical Assistants have advanced into a critical role within Health Care today. As technology continues to evolve, so will employment opportunities for these professionals across all settings. It is also essential to keep in mind that our profession follows the same path as other allied health disciplines such as Physical Therapy Assistant, Diagnostic Medical Sonography and Pharmacy Technician. They have recently made advancements in their qualifications due to high demand by employers. 

What are the educational qualifications needed?

From an educational perspective, most states require a high school diploma or GED equivalent. However, the necessary level of education may vary depending on your state’s specific regulations. There are also medical assistant programs that can be completed between 6-12 months at various levels of study (certificate, diploma and degree). These programs are offered through colleges and universities as well as community health centres throughout the U.S. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement for students who complete these programs while working with them; this is another great benefit if you can find it.

What career options are available?

Entry-level opportunities include CMA (Certified Medical Assistant), RMA (Registered Medical Assistant) and CMA-R (Recertification for CMA’s). Within these classifications, some sub-categories relate to the type of work you do on a day-to-day basis. For example, if you work in an HMO setting, your days would consist of Administrative/Clinical Support tasks. If you’re working as a hospital medical assistant, some of your daily responsibilities include patient care activities. As mentioned above, you can also advance your career by completing an advanced medical assisting program which may lead to employment opportunities with Nurse Practitioners or Physicians Assistants 

What is the job outlook & salary expectations?

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that Medical Assistants will be among the fastest-growing occupation through 2022. This growth can be attributed to the ageing population coupled with advances in technology and medicine.

The median annual wage for medical assistants was $29,070 in May 2015. The lowest 10 per cent earned less than $20,040 while the top 10 per cent earned more than $37,700. Medical assistants work in doctors’ offices and hospitals, where they perform administrative and specific clinical duties. 

On average, a Medical Assistant can expect to earn around $26k – $31k depending on experience & state of employment. With some states requiring additional training/certifications, it’s essential to research your local requirements before starting any new career path!

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