Medical Assistant Certification: A Smart Career Move
Are you exploring medical assistant programs, and trying to decide if medical assistant certification is a necessary step in your career path? If so, find out why obtaining certification could be one of your smartest career moves.
Why Should I Certify?
As with many other healthcare occupations, becoming certified is voluntary. However, it is one of the best ways to increase your chances of landing a great job in a rapidly growing field.
In fact, medical assisting is among the fastest growing occupations, with a projected job growth rate of 34 percent from 2008 through to 2018.* This rapid growth is due to several factors:
- An aging population
- The increasing prevalence of conditions such as obesity and diabetes
- A growing number of clinics, group practices, and other healthcare facilities that need healthcare workers who can handle both clinical and administrative duties
Another point to be aware of is that those with certification will have even greater job opportunities available to them.
Where Can I Obtain Certification?
There are several professional organizations which you can earn your certification from, including the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and the Association of Medical Technologists (AMT). However, the certification process varies for each organization, so you will need to take the time to research their eligibility requirements carefully. For example, in order to write the certification exam from AAMA, you must be a graduate of a medical assisting program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
Another important consideration is whether a designation from a particular certifying organization will be respected and recognized by potential employers. One way to find out is by contacting prospective employers or recent graduates from your program and asking them. You can also browse job postings and see if certification from a specific organization is frequently listed as a job requirement.
It is also possible to become certified in a specialty area of medical assisting, such as ophthalmology, optometry, or podiatry.
How Do I Prepare for Certification?
You can choose to prepare for the medical assistant certification examination in one of two ways—with study material you've purchased from the certifying organization or through an accredited program.
Medical assistant programs typically range from nine months to two years, depending on whether you choose to pursue a certificate or associate's degree. You can build a solid foundation of clinical knowledge with courses in physiology, human anatomy, pathology, and medical terminology. You can also develop laboratory skills as well as learn about a variety of clinical and diagnostic procedures. Most programs also provide you with training in medical office practices, medical law and ethics, and insurance processing.
Typically, a program will include a practicum in a professional healthcare setting which offers you a valuable opportunity to further develop your skills through hands-on experience.
One of the best places to look for a program that can prepare you for certification is this guide to medical assistant programs. Browse the list of schools, and find the one that's right for you!
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, web site accessed on Dec. 3, 2010.
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