Understanding How Long Does It Take to Become a Medical Assistant
Unlike most different types of careers in the USA’s lucrative healthcare industry, medical assisting doesn’t require a certification. However, this only refers to the technical requirements in most states; the actual requirements for medical assistants may differ, and so would the opportunities, depending on their education.
So let’s first learn about the different ways of becoming a medical assistant, before getting to the timeframe for the different programs that allow students to become a medical assistant.
Different Ways of Becoming a Medical Assistant
There are mainly two different ways of becoming a medical assistant. The first is options like campus and hybrid programs (that are a combination of campus training and practical experience), while the second being opting for online training or on-the-job training which doesn’t have to be official.
However, there’s more to it than that. While you can technically become a medical assistant with just a high school degree or GED if you go for the on-the-job training way, it’s difficult to find an employer willing to hire someone without the preferred formal education.
So unless you’re willing to be persistent and patient enough to wait for as long as you need to find an employer willing to provide on-the-job training to you, your best bet may be to opt for a program that’s accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
Let’s discuss these two options in more detail below.
On-the-job training is not only the most convenient but also the fastest way of becoming a medical assistant. A great advantage is also that you get to earn while you learn, instead of having to take care of the expenditure which you would have when going the formal education route for becoming a medical assistant.
The following are the two main requirements when becoming a medical assistant through on-the-job training.
High School Diploma or GED
While most people shouldn’t have any problem meeting this requirement, it’s important to note that you will need a high school diploma as a basic requirement for getting on-the-job training. An equivalent degree of a high school diploma will suffice, too.
However, if you don’t meet this requirement, you may have to pass the GED examination.
Find a Doctor
Of course, the other and more important requirement is to find a doctor that’s willing to offer hands-on training to you. While most medical professionals prefer someone with a formal education, there are still some who may be willing to hire you.
A good approach to have when finding a doctor is to express your desire and passion for working as a medical assistant. If you manage to find a doctor willing to provide on-the-job training, you will find yourself getting trained by doctors, nurses and other medical professionals which will greatly help your career as a medical assistant.
Becoming a Medical Assistant Through Formal Education
There are more than a few colleges and universities offering programs to become a medical assistant through formal education. You would have the option of going for either a certification or a diploma, if you want to become a medical assistant faster (that is, without choosing the on-the-job training option).
However, if the timeframe is not much of an issue for you, an associate’s degree may turn out to be a better option for you.
Regardless of the type of education you choose, you would be getting classroom and laboratory training, and then also an external assignment. The way in which these universities or technical schools offer this education may differ to some extent, though.
For instance, some of them may only offer classroom training, while others would have online programs. There are also some that combine these two to offer a more comprehensive program.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Medical Assistant?
We just discussed above the different ways of becoming a medical assistant through formal education. Now let’s understand how long to become a medical assistant if one opts for any of those ways.
First things first though, the exact time frame may depend on the type of program and the state in which you live, but most medical assistant programs typically last for less than a year.
A certification or degree program would only take 9 to 12 months to complete. However, some may even want to go for an associate’s degree, which tends to last as long as about 18 to 24 months.
There are some universities that have uniquely attractive training programs for students. They last anywhere between 30 to 45 weeks, but they also come with externships as the last part of the course.
This allows you to earn money while you’re finishing the last part of your course. But once you complete the education and the externship training, you will have to pass the examination in order to become a medical assistant.
Just to be clear, this is what the answer you’re looking for is if you’re wondering how long does it take to become a CMA (Certified Medical Assistant). This is because if you complete one of these programs and pass the exam, you will earn a certification.
Of course, for those that want to know medical assistant how long without formal education, then there’s really no answer. This is because it would simply come down to how quickly you get hired as one.
As we mentioned above, although not many employers prefer medical assistants without a certification, some may be willing to hire one. And if you get hired as a medical assistant without any kind of formal education, then you technically become a medical assistant but not a CMA.
Medical Assistant Recertification
If you become a medical assistant through on-the-job training (without formal education), you will need not worry about this. However, if you’re a Certified Medical Assistant, then your certification will be granted by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
And AAMA requires its medical assistants to recertify every 60 months of their initial approval as a medical assistant. This is to make sure that the CMAs are kept updated with their knowledge to serve their patients better.
There are two ways of getting recertified:
- By passing AAMA’s Certification Rectification Exam
- By continuing your medical assistant education and scoring 60 recertification points, with the breakdown being as 10 administrative, 10 clinical and 10 general points, and the rest 30 points being any combination of these three categories
Finally, if you want to become a medical assistant, there are many other important things you need to know as well. We have covered them in the other part of this article here, so you may want to check it out as well.