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How to Become a Medical Assistant
Posted: April 14, 2021
The fast-paced and dynamic life of a medical assistant can provide a rewarding career for anyone who loves helping others while working as part of a team. You may be wondering how to become a medical assistant. All it takes is five easy steps:
- Attend a medical assistant program
- Learn about the medical assistant career
- Develop the right skills
- Get any certifications you need
- Find and apply to employment listings
Career Quest Learning Centers provides the education, training, and experience you need to enter the exciting and growing healthcare field as a medical assistant. With our online medical assistant program, we can help you enter the workforce in as little as 8 months.
1. Attend a Medical Assistant Program
If you’re going to join this field, then to start you’ll need to enroll in a medical assistant program. Career Quest is an online career college where you can conveniently earn your diploma or AAS degree in just 8-15 months, depending on the program you choose.
You’ll also complete an externship as part of your training. You’ll get valuable hands-on experience in the healthcare field and practice certain skills that are best learned on the job.
At Career Quest, there are two different programs for students who want to work as a medical assistant:
- Medical Assistant Program
- Medical Office Administration (AAS) Degree
The Medical Assistant Program at Career Quest
As a student in our medical assistant program, you’ll be able to complete your diploma in just 8 short months. In this program, you’ll learn how to assist physicians during examinations and treatments, as well as how to perform a variety of laboratory and clinical procedures. You’ll also learn basic office procedure. Classes you’ll take include:
- Allied Healthcare Procedures
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Administrative Compliance
- Medical Assisting Procedures
- Allied Healthcare Applications
Your experience will be capped off with an externship, where you’ll receive real-world experience in the healthcare field.
Medical Office Administration Degree
If you want to go more in-depth and learn even more about keeping a medical office running smoothly, then you may be a fit for the medical office administration (AAS) degree at Career Quest. This is a 15-month program that takes less than two years to complete.
During this program, you’ll learn about all the aspects of overseeing a medical office, including managerial skills and medical billing and coding. When you choose the medical assistant concentration, you’ll also study the clinical skills you’ll need as a medical assistant. Classes you’ll take in this program include:
- Medical Law & Ethics
- Customer Service
- Medical Office Management
- Billing & Coding Procedures
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Allied Healthcare Procedures
- Allied Healthcare Applications
This more comprehensive degree program can set you up for an entry-level role as a medical assistant, as well as an eventual career as an office manager if that’s the path you choose to take.
2. Learn About the Medical Assistant Career
Before you dive in and start training to become a medical assistant, take some time to learn a little more about it.
In this career, you’ll fill a vital role in a variety of medical practices and hospitals while performing both clinical and administrative work. Let’s discuss what a medical assistant is and what you’ll do each day in this role.
What Is a Medical Assistant?
A medical assistant plays an important part in keeping any medical practice or hospital running smoothly. As a medical assistant, you’ll split your time between front- and back-office work and patient-focused duties.
On the administrative side of things, your job will be to help keep things flowing by letting providers know when their patients are present for appointments. Some medical assistants will collect and document insurance information as well.
Some other administrative tasks you may perform include:
- Answering phones
- Updating patient charts
- Arranging hospital and lab visits
- Scheduling appointments
- Checking in patients
Clinical Medical Assistant Duties
Most medical assistants work alongside physicians too. This patient-focused role puts you in the heart of all the action. Your more clinical tasks may include:
- Recording medical histories
- Taking patient vitals
- Drawing blood
- Setting up an EKG machine
- Removing sutures
You’ll also be responsible for taking a patient’s history and updating their medical records for accuracy. Some providers may have you give patients directions and administer medications, as permitted by the laws in your state.
Medical Assistant Career Growth
The medical assistant career is full of options. It is expected to grow by 19% between 2019 and 2029 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.* That’s much faster than average, so you can expect plenty of stability when you enter this field.
Careers for Medical Assistants
Being a medical assistant gets you started in an entry-level career at a medical practice or hospital. This foot in the door can provide you with the opportunity to branch out into several other titles or careers that may be just as well-suited to your interests and strengths.
For example, some medical assistants may also eventually hold titles like:
- Medical office assistant
- Phlebotomy technician
- Laboratory assistant
- EKG technician
- Medical technician
You may also be able to move into a role as an electronic health records specialist or even a medical biller or coder or office manager if you prefer the administrative side of things.
Expanding Your Career
If you really excel in your clinical roles as a medical assistant, then you may open doors to progress in your career with the right experience, degrees, and training. These career growth options include:
- Registered nurse
- Physician’s assistant
- Nurse practitioner
Ask providers at your place of employment how you can expand your skills and experience to take the next step in your healthcare career. They may be able to provide recommendations for what kind of education and training to pursue next.
3. Develop the Right Skills
If the medical assistant career sounds like the right path for you, then it’s time to enroll in an accredited career college like Career Quest and learn the skills that you’ll need to excel. This includes skills like:
- Basic understanding of medical terminology, including anatomy and physiology
- Essential clinical and laboratory skills, like taking vitals and drawing blood
- Knowledge of safety and sanitation practices
You should also brush up on your computer skills, like typing and data entry. Computer and data entry skills are essential for learning the patient management system that your practice uses. They are also necessary for making appointments and keeping patient records.
These are all skills you’ll learn during your coursework at Career Quest. You’ll also have the opportunity to practice these clinical and office skills during your externship.
Soft Skills that Medical Assistants Need
While you’ll learn many essential office and clinical skills from the industry-experienced instructors at our online medical assistant college, there are still more skills and abilities that you can only learn from on-the-job experience. That’s why an externship is so important. These soft skills include:
- Time management
- Customer service
It’s important that you learn all about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. HIPAA sets standards for insurance coverage and patient privacy. If you’re going to be doing any medical billing and coding as a medical assistant, then you’ll want to understand how HIPAA regulates insurance coverage.
Another aspect to understand about HIPAA involves patient privacy. This law dictates that healthcare professionals—including medical assistants—cannot share patient information with anyone who is not authorized to have it. Study up on HIPAA compliance to ensure you’re keeping patient information confidential, as required by law.
4. Get any Certifications You Need
As you’re studying to become a medical assistant, you may find certain areas of the field that you’d like to learn more about. This is where certifications are helpful.
Working toward and achieving a certification can demonstrate to future employers that you want to grow in your career. They may also give you the opportunity to develop and master new skills that can improve your chances of landing your dream job.
Some certifications you can take as a healthcare student include:
- EKG Technician
- Phlebotomy Technician
- CPR and Basic Life Support
- Medical Assistant
All training programs at Career Quest are designed to help students prepare for certification exams. Career Quest students also have the opportunity to sit for certification exams that map to their specific program at no additional charge, as long as they meet certain eligibility criteria, like GPA requirements.
5. Find and Apply to Employment Listings
After you complete your training program or degree, it’ll be time to start looking at and applying to employment listings. As a medical assistant, you’ll have a wealth of opportunities available to you in a variety of different environments.
With their flexibility and their clinical and administrative skills, medical assistants can work in a variety of medical practices. While the vast majority work in physicians’ offices, many other inpatient and outpatient facilities also employ medical assistants.
Places where medical assistants work include:
- Physicians’ offices
- Urgent care centers
- Chiropractic offices
- Dental offices
- Podiatry offices
- Long- and short-term care facilities
- Nursing home facilities
The Career Quest Career Services Department
We want to set you up for success. Our full-service Career Services Department provides assistance to employment seekers after they complete one of our programs. Our department has flexible hours and provides access to computers and the internet, so you can polish your resumé or look for employment.
We also provide several services, like:
- Resumé and cover letter writing tips
- Employment listings
- Employment search tips and mock interviews
- Help with exam and certification preparation
- Portfolio support
Our Career Services team provides lifetime job placement assistance for our graduates. That means that we’ll always be here to assist you in keeping your medical assistant career on track and growing.
Should I Be a Medical Assistant?
You might be wondering if the dynamic and engaging medical assistant career is right for you. We have the tools at our online career college to help you determine whether you’re on the right track.
Take a moment to read the statements below. If you answer yes to most of them, then the medical assistant career can be the right fit for you:
- I am friendly and attentive
- I have a desire to help others
- I’m a team player
- I’m tidy and organized
- I’m detail-oriented
- I’m good at following directions
- I can work independently when I need to
You can also meet with our Admissions team to discuss the program further. In general, you’ll likely enjoy being a medical assistant if you want a career that includes:
- Variety in your day-to-day work
- A fast-paced environment where no two days are the same
- Building bonds with co-workers and working as part of a team
- Helping people and creating lasting relationships with patients
- Stability as part of a growing field
- The ability to begin a new career in just 8 months of training
If this sounds like work that you’d enjoy, reach out to Career Quest to learn more about enrolling in our medical assistant program.
How Career Quest Can Help You Become a Medical Assistant
We believe that we’re only successful if you’re successful. So, if you want to be a medical assistant, we provide the training, education, and services you need to get started in your new healthcare career.
Financial Aid and Tuition Discounts
Securing financial aid is key when you’re going back to school to become a medical assistant. All students who attend our accredited career college can speak to a member of our team to determine if they qualify for financial aid.
Start by completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). This free application will tell you if you qualify for any federal loans that you can apply toward your education. Additionally, we offer several tuition discount programs for our students, including programs and credits like:
- “Need a Break” Credit
- Michigan Works!
- Armed Forces Tuition Discount
- Graduate Together Tuition Discount
- Continuing Education Discount
Workers who have been displaced or dislocated from their current job may also receive tuition assistance to help ease the transition into their new career through our Dislocated Worker Discount.
If you’re considering our medical assistant program, you should also know that we offer an AAS Early Enrollment Discount. Under this program, you may be eligible for a tuition discount if you decide to continue your education into the medical office administration (AAS) program.
Straightforward Class Scheduling
Course scheduling is simple and straightforward here at our medical assistant school. We know that you’re busy with your coursework, as well as life outside of the classroom. So, we select your classes for you every semester to ensure that you’re able to complete your program as quickly as possible.
All you have to do is attend class and complete your coursework. We’ll take care of making sure that you’re in the right classes to reach your goals.
Don’t expect any hidden fees or expensive classroom materials when you enroll in courses at our career college. We include the cost of textbooks in your tuition, so you don’t have to pay extra out of pocket.
Aside from your externship and monthly clinical, most courses that you’ll take as part of our medical assistant program are offered online. That means that you can attend class in a space that’s comfortable for you and complete your weekly coursework deadlines in a way that fits your schedule.
Small Class Sizes
We offer small class sizes to ensure that you can build a personal, mentoring relationship with your instructors. They also allow you to get the individual attention you need when you need it. Career Quest classes include just 25 students or less.
Check out our Blog Post: What Would I Like About Being a Medical Assistant
Enroll to Become a Medical Assistant
Enrolling in an accredited medical assistant school is the first step along the path to becoming a medical assistant. At Career Quest, we offer two medical assistant programs that help you gain the skills you need to begin your new career in just 8-15 months. Classes are enrolling now, so contact our Admissions team and enroll in our online career college today!