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Medical Assistant Q&A

Whether you’re just starting your search for accredited medical assisting schools and training or if you’re ready to start your career, you’ve come to the right place. At, we aim to give you the information you need and want to be successful in the field.

Below, we offer answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Medical Assisting. Whether you have questions about how to become a medical assistant or if you want to know the average medical assistant salary in your state, we can help. No matter what stage of the process you’re in, we hope that you can find answers to your questions below.

Top Qualities of Medical Assistants

Before you start digging into your questions about training, career opportunities, and work duties, consider the characteristics of successful medical assistants. First of all, you must have a genuine interest in working with patients. This want, coupled with the compassion and patience of a competent caregiver can be your foundation that you build on through training. Academically, students who had an interest in science in high school, especially related to the human body, are a good fit for medical assistant careers.

You also have to have some personality traits that help you fit into a healthcare setting. In all medical assistant roles, you will need to be flexible and ready for anything when you clock in each day. You should also have a team mentality, since so many patients, physicians and co-workers will rely on you to be competent in your role. However, not every facility is the same. Working at a hospital might force you to work an ever-rotating schedule, while an outpatient center might steer towards a 9-5 Monday through Friday workweek.

The following medical assistant questions and answers are grouped into training, career and job duty topics. We are always seeking reader feedback about the information we provide. If you have any questions you would like to see answered here, just let us know!

Common Questions About Medical Assistant Training

There is no bigger step towards a medical assistant career than choosing the right training program. Knowing what to ask school advisors, how to find accredited programs, and understanding educational requirements for medical assistant jobs can be a complicated to-do list. Fortunately, we have information that can walk you through these initial steps. Then you can make a list of your most pressing questions before reaching out to medical assistant schools near you.

1. How to become a medical assistant?

To begin the process of becoming a medical assistant, it is recommended that you attend an accredited post-secondary institution to receive formal medical assistant training, such as a vocational school, junior college, technical institute, or community college. Most training programs will lead to a certificate or a diploma, but some offer more extensive medical training, which lead to an associate’s degree.

You may also find this article about what type of degree a medical assistant should have helpful.

2. How do I get into medical assisting school?

Most medical assisting schools only require you to have graduated from a recognized high school, or a U.S. Department of Education-accepted equivalent (i.e. G.E.D.). Most schools will have you submit an application to begin the process of enrolling in the program. Be sure to reach out to your chosen school’s admissions staff for guidance through your application process.

3. How long does it take to become a medical assistant?

If your program outcome is a certificate or diploma, most of these programs can be completed in a year or less. If you’re working towards your associate’s degree in medical assisting, it may take around two years to complete your program.

4. How do I know if a medical assisting school is accredited?

When searching for schools, make sure to check if an institution’s medical assisting program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools ( ABHES). If your program of choice isn’t accredited, you risk not being able to sit for the certification exam, or not being able to become a registered medical assistant after completion of your program.

5. How do I pick the right medical assistant program?

Medical Assisting programs come in many different shapes and sizes, so the best option is just to find an accredited program that offers class schedules that will fit into your life. Additionally, you may want to consider whether you’d like a diploma/certificate program, or an associate’s degree program, as they do vary by program length.

You may also be interested in reading this article about how to pick a medical assistant program.

6. How do I find an accredited medical assisting program?

All of the schools listed on our site offer accredited medical assisting programs. Please visit a program or state-based page to find a school that matches your interests and request more information. When you’re contacted by a school admissions representative, be sure to ask them which accrediting body their school is affiliated with, as well as some questions like:

– How long does the program take to complete?
– What types of classes will I be taking?
– Is this is a certificate, diploma, or degree program?
– Are there financial aid options available?
– Does your program offer an externship or any type of clinical training?

Common Questions About Medical Assisting Careers

Our career-focused medical assistant questions and answers seek to address those questions that inevitably come up when students are searching for medical assistant training: how much does it cost? Are there really jobs out there? What about paths to nursing? Relax. We have you covered, and we can answer any questions you don’t see answered here. Just know, by becoming a medical assistant, you can create a plan to become a nurse or pursue other areas of healthcare.

1. Is medical assisting a good career choice?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is expected to grow 31 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is six percent more growth than growth of all other healthcare support occupations. From these statistics, it appears that job outlook for medical assisting is very positive and will continue to be a growing and stable career field.

Additionally, according to a 2012 survey conducted by the City University of New York, all graduates of the sample population indicated that they were “very or somewhat satisfied with their current or most recent medical assistant job“.

2. How long does it take to find a job as a MA?

This can vary by location, qualifications and specialization; however, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there are an increasing number of primary care facilities in need medical assistants to help doctors maintain their practices. With a projected increase of 31 percent in the medical assistant career field, medical assisting jobs should be readily available.

3. How much is an average medical assistant salary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of medical assistants was $30,780 in 2013. This breaks down to an average earning of $14.80 per hour. The top 10 percent of certified medical assistants earned more than $40,000 per year.

4. Where can I learn how to become a certified medical assistant?

While medical assistants are not required to be certified, employers tend to hire certified assistants, so becoming a certified medical assistant may be a very smart career move.

The first step for becoming a certified medical assistant is completing an accredited medical assisting education program and then applying to take the certification exam. Once your application has been approved, you will receive information to schedule your exam appointment; you will only have a 90-day window in which you are eligible to take the exam, so be ready! Once you pass the exam, you will receive your proof of certification so that you can notify future employers of your credentials.

There are four different certifications that you may receive as a medical assistant:

*Before you’re eligible to take the CMA Certification Examination, you must complete a postsecondary medical assisting program that is accredited by either the CAAHEP, or the ABHES.

More Information: 10 Reasons to Get Certified in Medical Assisting

Additionally, if you’d like more information on the steps required to become a certified medical assistant (CMA), please visit the American Associate of Medical Assistants.

5. What is the difference between a medical assistant and a nurse?

There are several key differences between medical assistants and nurses, but the biggest differences include which job tasks are performed and the education requirements for each career.

Nurses are responsible for patient care. This includes taking and monitoring vitals, providing basic patient care, keeping patient records, and discussing health concerns with patients and doctors. Medical assistants are more in charge of the “clerical” duties around the office, rather than directly caring for patients. These clerical duties may include organizing patient documents, scheduling appointments, or recording patient’s personal information. However, depending on the practice and the state, medical assistants may also perform basic patient care tasks, such as taking blood pressure, preparing blood for laboratory tests, or assisting a physician with exams.

The other major difference between a medical assistant and a nurse is the amount of education required to start your career. Medical assistants may attend a school specifically for medical assisting, and it typically takes only about one year to complete a medical assisting diploma/certificate program. However, medical assistants do not need to attend a specific college; they may just receive on-the-job training from their physician’s office, as there are no formal education requirements to become a medical assistant in most states. Still, many employers require that you have specific medical assistant training to be eligible for hire.

Questions About Medical Assistant Job Duties

Since healthcare is a field that addresses all types of human populations, there are many types of medical assistants. Literally every type of healthcare setting requires the help of skills medical assistants. In the Q&A’s below, you can learn more about where medical assistants work and what they do in their daily roles. We encourage you to take a few moments and read through each of these articles. Our goal is to give you a deeper understanding of your options, so you can direct your education and training in that direction. The more you think things through when you plan your education, the better positioned you will be to start your career as soon as you complete your training!

1. Where do medical assistants work?

Medical assistants can work in a variety of settings, such as inpatient and outpatient hospitals, or other professional health offices, such as chiropractic or optometrist offices.

2. What does a medical assistant do?

A medical assistant’s job can vary depending on the state in which you work (due to legal guidelines, which may vary by state) and the type of setting that you work in. However, a medical assistant’s job duties can include:

– Administrative work (greeting clients, filing paper work, scheduling appointments, arrange for laboratory services, etc.)
– Taking a patient’s vitals
– Preparing patients for exams
– Performing basic laboratory tests
– Assist the physician with routine procedures and processes

For more information, you can also check out this article about what to expect as a medical assistant.

3. Do medical assistants draw blood, or give shots?

This will depend on which state you are practicing in. Some states legally permit certified medical assistants to perform lab work or procedures, such as
drawing blood and giving shots, while others do not. To find more information relating to the scope of practice of medical assistants, check with your
state medical board, or state-based medical assistant association.

You can find a wide variety of different medical assisting programs listed on our site, with the schools that offer them as well. Feel free to request program materials from all of those you are interested in so you can start comparing schools today. You could soon be on your way to this rewarding and vital healthcare profession.

If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us by email (link) or share your thoughts using the feedback tab. We’d love to hear from you!