The health care system in the United States is changing at a rapid rate. Because of the recent reforms in the health care system, the development of medical and technological advances and the growing aging population, careers in the field of healthcare are expected to thrive in the coming years. Medical assisting is one of the most promising healthcare-related careers in the next decade. As the country experiences a lack of nurses and as the prevalence of chronic medical continues, the demand for medical assistants is expected to grow by as high as 34% through 2020. This growth rate is much faster than the average for all occupations.
Personal growth and professional opportunities for medical assistants are greater and more rewarding in the next decade. As physicians begin to utilize the skills of medical assistants in order to deliver timely care to more patients, the job outlook looks excellent for those who are considering this as a career. At present, about 62% of medical assistants work in physician offices. Medical assistants are also employed in public and private hospitals and in the offices of other healthcare practitioners, such as chiropractors and podiatrists.
As the demand for medical assistants increases, so does the medical assistant requirements before employment. Working as a medical assistant opens new opportunities for but for those with certification, formal training and experience, the opportunities are greater and better. As mentioned, medical assistants are taking a more active role with patient care, requiring further training and certification.
Medical assistant schools, such community and junior colleges, vocational-technical high schools and post-secondary vocational schools offer 1- or 2-year medical assisting programs. A year of training results in a diploma or certificate in medical assisting. Training for 2 years result in an associate degree in medical assisting. A high school diploma is generally required before entry. Those aspiring to become medical assistants can already take the medical assistant online program.
In addition to online courses, an internship program must be completed before a diploma or associate degree is received. Hands-on training in local offices of physicians or healthcare facilities is supervised by local preceptors to help students apply theoretical knowledge to actual situations.
In the past, most medical assistants are trained on the job. Although formal training and certifications are generally not required, most states and employers currently require prospective medical assistants to attend medical assistant schools and certifications. Obtaining a certification ensures that they are able to meet the standards of knowledge needed in the job. Certifications are also a great way to earn higher salaries, maximize employment opportunities and increase opportunities for specialization.
Medical assistants must pass the examination administered by certain associations, such as the American Association of Medical Assistants, or AAMA, and the American Medical Technologists, or AMT, before they are certified. To be eligible sit for an examination, the AAMA requires applicants to be completing students, recent graduates or non-recent graduates of medical assisting programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health, or CAAHEP, or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, or ABHES. Candidates who previously passed the certification examination are also eligible.