Unlike many other health care professions, there are no legal requirements that mandate medical assistant certification. With that being said, certification is still an important part of the career development path for professional MAs. Hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities are becoming more and more selective when it comes to hiring new staff.
Because people judge an employers reputation based on their ability to give competent and compassionate care to each patient who walks through the door, they must go the extra mile to demand that all members of their staff receive the highest level of training available. For MAs, this means graduating from an approved training program accredited by either the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs. Both organizations are well-recognized in the medical community and offer certification that will make MAs more attractive candidates for open positions.
A career as a CMA involves a broad spectrum of tasks associated with patient care and medical administration. Whereas most health care careers focus solely on patient care or administration, this dual role position requires that an individual develop skills ranging from scheduling appointments and completing insurance paperwork to assisting with clinical and diagnostic procedures.
Students can usually complete most accredited medical assistant training programs in less than one year. If you choose to enroll in a longer 2 year program, you can earn an associate degree which will allow you apply existing school credit towards a more advanced degree when you are ready.
Both options can offer the credentials necessary to secure a job but a two-year program will offer a path to a higher salary and make a candidate more desirable to a potential employer. In the field of medicine, any competitive advantage you can secure will improve your career outlook and future earning potential.
While these programs are much less expensive than a four-year university, they often demand a large financial investment. Fortunately, most programs offer financial aid for students who qualify. This can include Federal Stafford Loans, Plus Loans (for parents) and even Pell Grants which students do not need to repay. Many of the financial aid packages are not based on credit history so it can pay to speak with an administrator at your school of choice to ask what kind of aid they offer.
Upon completion of a certification program, graduates can expect to find a steady supply of jobs and the expectation is for demand to increase further over the next few years. Starting salaries for medical assistants who have completed a one year diploma program can expect to earn between $28,000 and $31,000 annually while those with an associate degree can earn as much as $46,000 per year. The extra $15,000 in potential annual earnings is something you will definitely want to carefully consider when deciding between a one year training program and a two-year option.
Earning your certification can open the door to some excellent career advancement opportunities. Many MAs go on to become nurses, lab technicians, hospital administrators, and physician assistants. This fast growing profession could be answer you are looking for to launch an exciting and rewarding career in the health care industry.