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How to Become a Medical Assistant

Have you decided that you want to start a career as a medical assistant? That’s great! Now that you know what you want, it’s best to have a clear path you can follow to reach your goal.

With the right plan, you can move toward the job of your dreams step by step. Then, before you know it, you’ll be making a difference in the lives of patients in whatever medical facility you choose to work in.

Ready to learn how to become a medical assistant? We’ve outlined the main requirements and steps below to help you get started.

Steps to becoming a medical assistant

 Becoming a medical assistant isn’t too complicated. You might even be pleasantly surprised by how straightforward the process can be.

How long does it take to become a medical assistant? Well, it might only take anywhere from one to two years, but this will depend on factors like the education you pursue and how long it takes to get certified. For instance, while a certificate or diploma program might only last a year or less, a degree program will typically take longer to complete.

1. Graduate high school and enroll in a medical assistant program

 It all starts with getting your high school diploma or GED. Then, you can focus on enrolling in a program that provides training to work as a medical assistant.

There are a lot of medical assistant schools and programs, but to help ensure you’ll receive a high-quality education, stick with those that are accredited. Also, if you want to pursue a medical assistant specialty, narrow your options to the schools that offer that type of training.

Whether you decide to go with a medical assistant diploma or a medical assistant degree, you’ll be able to command a higher salary by showing you completed a reputable and comprehensive training program.

2. Complete an internship or externship

The great thing about an externship or internship is you can start to put what you’re learning to use in the real world while you’re still in school.

Depending on what you hope to achieve, you might be able to land an internship or externship at a hospital or clinic. Or, you might decide to focus on a medical assistant specialty at a facility like a cardiology or OB/GYN office.

No matter what, this hands-on training is invaluable and can give you a glimpse into what it’s like to work as a medical assistant.

3. Get your medical assistant certification

Although this isn’t always necessary, some employers only hire medical assistants who are certified. Also, the state you work in might require that you receive a certification before you get hired.

Whether you choose to pursue certification because it’s required or you want to make your resume more impressive, you may need to prove your qualifications by passing an exam—another reason why choosing the right medical assistant program is critical!

Note: If you opt to become certified, be sure to check the requirements for maintaining that certification, as you might need to do things like complete continuing education credits on a regular basis.

Medical assistant school options

Medical assistant programs can be found at a variety of schools, such as trade schools, colleges (including community colleges), and universities. Plus, you can choose from in-person, online, and hybrid programs.

Consider things like cost, schedule, and class sizes. Also, as mentioned above, it’s wise to stick with schools that are accredited and offer internships or externships.

Comparing how long different programs will take to complete is another factor to think about, particularly if you want to be able to start working sooner rather than later.

Requirements to become a medical assistant

To summarize, what can you do to boost the odds of landing a high-paying medical assistant position?


First, it’s all about getting the right education to prove you’re ready to work in the field. While in school, going the extra mile can make a difference in your ability to land a higher paying job, so consider completing an externship or internship, as it can help you get some experience. And, remember, a good way to stand out against other job candidates is by graduating from a school that has a stellar reputation.

Specialty focus (optional)

If you want to work in a particular area of health care, such as cardiology, podiatry, or ophthalmology, proving that you were properly trained in that specialty will help employers realize you have what it takes to succeed. So, keep this in mind while searching for the right training program.


Getting a professional certification is a smart move, even though it isn’t always a requirement. There are several options to choose from, including those for specialty areas. Here are some examples:

  • American Association of Medical Assistants: Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
  • American Medical Technologists: Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
  • National Health Career Association: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
  • National Center for Competency Testing: National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
  • Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology: Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA)
  • American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants: Podiatric Medical Assistant Certification (PMAC)

Skills needed to become a medical assistant

 Because medical assistants work closely with patients and doctors, as well as office staff, they need to hone a wide range of skills, including soft skills and technical skills, such as:

  • Active listening
  • Clear communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Time management
  • Multi-tasking
  • Instructing
  • Patient care
  • Administrative skills
  • Medical terminology
  • The use of electronic health records
  • The use of certain medical tools and equipment

It might seem like a lot, but the right training will make all the difference by teaching you exactly what you need to know.

Get Your Medical Assistant Diploma or Degree at IBMC!

Now that you know more about how to become a certified medical assistant, it’s time to begin your journey, and IBMC is here to help at every step! Check out our medical assistant career information to discover what to expect when working in this field. And contact us anytime to learn more about our programs, the many benefits they provide, and how to enroll quickly and easily.

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