The Importance of Certification for Medical Assistants: What You Should Know
Posted On Nov 20, 2023
Medical assistants work directly with patients and have both administrative and clinical responsibilities. Medical assistants greet patients, take vitals, maintain medical records, answer questions, and assist other medical staff with procedures. Medical assistants need to be meticulous, attentive, have excellent communication skills, and attention to detail. While every state does require a medical assistant to go through a training program before working in a medical facility, many states do not require that medical assistants obtain certification before working as a medical assistant. Even if you are not required to get certification, it is still important for all medical assistants as they begin their careers. Obtaining certification as a medical assistant can help you find a good position, can increase the pay for that job, and will allow you to advance in your career.
Why Should I Get Certification as a Medical Assistant?
Getting your certification as a medical assistant isn’t always required to begin working in the field, although some positions may have their own requirements. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good idea for all medical assistants to make certification their goal. Certified medical assistants have a definite advantage in the job market over medical assistants who have completed their training without certification. Obtaining certification demonstrates to prospective employers that you are committed to growing in the field and gives prospective employers a quantifiable way to gauge your knowledge, skills, and qualifications. As a certified medical assistant, you will be in a better position to get hired and may qualify for a better salary than non-certified medical assistants. Working as a certified medical assistant can also be an excellent stepping-stone to other careers in healthcare. Medical assistants can use their continuing education opportunities to work in certain specialties, such as cardiology, pediatrics, or emergency medicine, or can continue their medical education to move into nursing, teaching, managerial, or medical technology positions.
What is the Difference Between a Licensed and a Certified Medical Assistant?
Although some use the terms interchangeably, there is a difference between a licensed and certified medical assistant. Licenses mean that you are legally permitted to work in the state that granted the license. Every state will have their own requirements to get a license to work as a medical assistant. Certification is a voluntary process controlled by a private professional organization. Certification programs are usually designed to set the industry standards for the profession, including necessary skills and knowledge. There are several different certification programs available for medical assistants.
What Medical Assistant Certification Programs are Available?
There are five medical assistant certifications available.
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from National Center for Competency Testing
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from National Healthcare Association
- Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from National Healthcare Association.
The most common programs, and the programs most sought after by employers are the CMA and the RMA. The NCMA and CCMA focus primarily on the clinical side of medical assisting, while the CMAA focuses on those who are more interested in the administrative side of medical assisting. Many medical assistants who pursue these certifications already hold a CMA or RMA certification.
How to Become a Certified Medical Assistant
The first step to becoming a certified medical assistant is to enroll in an accredited medical assistant training program. Some medical assisting programs are nationally accredited and will be a combination of classwork and clinical training to ensure that all who complete the program have an excellent foundation and the ability to begin working as a medical assistant with courses ranging from anatomy and physiology to first aid. You will learn basic medical skills, such as changing bandages, drawing blood, taking vitals, and preparing patient rooms, medical administration skills, such as updating patient records and communicating effectively with other medical staff, and “soft skills”, which will help with multitasking and patient interaction. Most medical assistant programs only require a high school diploma or GED to begin the training program. Medical assistant programs vary in length, but some programs allow you to complete your program in as little as a year.
To qualify for a medical assistant certification, you must prove that you have the knowledge and skills necessary through your training program, and then pass an exam. The exam will cover medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic testing, patient care, and medical laws and ethics. After obtaining your initial certification, you will need to maintain your certification, usually by further professional development. Most certifications need to be renewed every few years and require completing a certain number of continuing education hours. If you are working as a certified medical assistant, your employer will often help you find and complete the necessary continuing education requirements.
If you are interested in becoming a medical assistant, certification is something you should pursue after you complete your training program. Obtaining certification as a medical assistant will set you on the best path toward a rewarding career in healthcare. When you are comparing programs to become a medical assistant, make sure that the program you choose is an accredited training program that will give you the foundation and set you up for success as a certified medical assistant. With the comprehensive, accredited program offered by Athena Career Academy, you can begin taking steps toward a rewarding career in healthcare. Contact us today.
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