Frequently Asked Questions

If you are considering becoming a medical assistant, you probably have a lot of questions about the career and what it involves. This guide is designed to address your important questions and give you the answers you need to make an informed career decision.

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Q #1: Is this career right for me? What personality traits are ideal for medical assistants?

A. Medical assisting may not be the right career for everyone. The best medical assistants have very strong communication skills, are dependable, can handle high levels of stress, and are empathetic to patients and others. In addition, medical assistants must pay close attention to detail and have excellent visual acuity and manual dexterity. Finally, professional medical assistants must have a strong level of integrity and self-control and the ability to be courteous at all times.


Q #2: What are the typical daily responsibilities of a medical assistant?

A. The duties of a medical assistant vary from one practice to the next and may be limited by state laws. Typically, however, medical assistants perform bookkeeping, take and record patient histories and vital signs, prepare office correspondence, prepare examination rooms and patients, complete insurance billing and coding, draw blood and administer medications, maintain medical records, schedule patient appointments, and educate patients on procedures, prescriptions, nutrition, and more.


Q #3: How many different types of medical assistants are there? What are they?

A. There are three basic types of medical assistants: clinical, administrative, and general (both clinical and administrative). In addition, medical assistants can choose to work without credentials or may become certified or registered.


Q #4: How much can I expect to earn as a medical assistant?

A. Nationally, the average salary for a medical assistant is around $33,610. In addition, most medical assistants receive a healthy benefits package that adds considerably to the base pay. Salaries can vary greatly, depending upon level of training, location, experience, and credentials.


Q #5: How easy is it to find a job?

A.  The availability of medical assistant jobs depends greatly upon the state. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York as the states with the highest employment levels for medical assistants. However, students in Montana, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming may find the demand for their services is not quite as high.


Q #6: What is certification?

A. Certification is a voluntary way for medical assistants to show that they have demonstrated their mastery of the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the job well. Although it is not required, many employers prefer candidates who have achieved certification and will often offer higher pay to employees with these credentials.


Q #7: Is certification required to become a medical assistant?

A: There is no requirement for medical assistants to become licensed or certified. However, job duties in many states may be limited for those who are not properly certified. In addition, an increasing number of employers are looking for certified medical assistants and often show them preference when hiring.


Q #8: How do I get certified?

A: To become certified, you must meet the eligibility requirements necessary to take the certification examination. You must then study for and pass the examination to become a Certified Medical Assistant.


Q #9: How hard is the certification exam? What should I expect?

A. The certification exam tests for proficiency in all the skills and knowledge needed to work as a medical assistant. The test is somewhat difficult, but it should be no problem for candidates that study enough to be fully prepared. The certification exam includes questions about anatomy and physiology, office management and procedures, bookkeeping, insurance processing, medical procedures, patient examinations, phlebotomy, medical terminology, diagnostic testing, and pharmacology.


Q #10: How long does a typical training program take?

A. The length of a training program depends upon the level of education involved. Certificates and diplomas can be earned in less than a year while associate’s degree programs typically take between 18 months and two years to complete.


Q #11: What should I look for in a training program?

A. Those that plan to become certified should make sure to choose a program that is accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). It is important to compare several schools to find one that offers the best tuition rates, class schedules, student support, and job placement rates.


Q #12: How often do I need to renew certification? How can I renew certification?

A. Certified Medical Assistants must renew certification every five years. Certification can be renewed either through continuing education credits or by taking the certification/recertification examination.


Q #13: Do I need to re-certify if I move to another state?

A. The CMA credential offered through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) is a national credential. As such, there is no need to re-certify when moving to another state.


Q #14: Will I be able to find a job if I get my training online?

A. Most employers recognize the value of an online education, especially if it is properly accredited. Graduates of online programs are just as employable as those who receive training in a traditional setting.

We are continually adding more questions as we get them. If you would like to add a question to our FAQ – or if you would simply like to ask us a question, please contact us using our contact page.