There is no universal requirement when it comes to licensing for medical assistants. Even so, licensed medical assistants receive preferential treatment when it comes to hiring because they have demonstrated the necessary skills required in this profession. If you’re considering a career in this field, it’s important to know how to become a certified medical assistant in order to increase the number of job opportunities available to you.
Step #1: Attend a Training Program
Certified medical assistants must attend a qualified training program at a community college or trade school. A typical program takes around two years to complete, and will include courses such as:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Clinical procedures
- Laboratory procedures
- Medical law
- Medical billing and coding procedures
- Medical terminology
Classes generally consist of both classroom and laboratory work. You may be required to demonstrate your knowledge by completing written tests, performing hands-on tasks, or a combination of the two. You may also be given other assignments such as research papers to complete.
Choose an Accredited School
Training programs should also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Earning an accredited degree ensures you are qualified to sit for a certifying exam upon graduation.
Step #2: Complete a Practicum
Accredited programs also require students to complete a practicum prior to graduation. During this practicum, you will work in an actual clinical setting under the direct supervision of a doctor or physician’s assistant, where you will perform duties such as:
- Collecting vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, height and weight
- Drawing blood
- Assisting with patient exams
- Updating medical charts
- Scheduling appointments
The length of a practicum varies from one training program to the next, but typically lasts for several weeks. Practicums are generally unpaid, and participants must also provide their own uniforms to wear while working. In some cases, a criminal background check and physical exam are also required prior to beginning a practicum.
Although most practicums are unpaid, some clinics do pay students a nominal wage. Even when a practicum is unpaid, it has the potential to lead to full-time employment after graduation.
Step #3: Take a Certifying Exam
Certifying exams are offered through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or American Medical Technologists (AMT). To sit for the AAMA exam, you must be a graduate or future graduate of an accredited program who has also completed a practicum. A recertification exam is available for anyone who would like to renew his or her credentials. AMT certification is available for anyone who completes an accredited training program, or obtains equivalent training through work experience or military service.
Renewing your Credentials
AAMA licensing is good for a period of 60 months from the end of the calendar month of your certification/recertification. After that time, you may renew your license by taking a recertification exam or by obtaining the appropriate number of continuing education credits. A fee is required in both instances.
To maintain AMT certification, you must continue to pay an annual membership fee to the organization. This agency also requires a minimum number of Certification Continuation Program (CCP) credits every three years. Only members who maintain good standing and abide by the AMT Standards of Practice are eligible for recertification.
The demand for medical assistants will increase tremendously in the years to come, due to the increasing health care needs of an aging population. Certified medical assistants will be even more in demand, which is why you should consider becoming certified in order to increase the number of job opportunities and amount of pay available to you.