How To Become a Medical Assistant?
If you’re interested in becoming a medical assistant, there are a number of steps that you must complete to become a medical assistant. Below you will find a step-by-step guide that outlines all of the steps you must take to become a medical assistant in much detail.
Becoming a medical assistant is excellent for individuals who do not want to spend years in college obtaining a medical or nursing degree, as FCC’s Medical Assistant Program can be completed in as little as 10 months. In addition, a medical assisting diploma will open the door to new opportunities in clinics, hospitals, outpatient facilities, and private practices.
That said, medical assistants are important because they play a vital role in healthcare facilities, and it’s not just because they help patients … which they do. Medical assistants are healthcare professionals in their own right and are trained to perform both front and back-office tasks that help ensure operations run smoothly and patients receive top-notch services, treatments, assistance, and information.
Since becoming a medical assistant requires less training than those who seek physician or nursing positions, it’s often more within reach for those who aspire to earn a career helping people within the healthcare realm. It’s a great place to start what can become a long-term and successful career in the medical field.
What is a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants are healthcare professionals who work alongside physicians in private practices, outpatient clinics, hospitals, and other medical facilities for the benefit of patient services and care. Medical assistants are cross-trained to perform duties that are both administrative and clinical in nature.
Within a healthcare administrative setting, the typical medical assistant’s day may include front-office work like answering phones, scheduling patient appointments, updating medical records, filing, arranging labs and referrals, and basic coding tasks. Clinically, medical assistants may also escort patients to exam rooms, take vitals, assist during examinations, perform basic lab tests, and educate patients about treatments, medications, and other physician-directed recommendations.
In other words, medical assistants wear a lot of hats, and they work closely with nearly everyone on staff within a medical clinic or hospital unit: physicians, nurses, office managers, billing professionals, lab staff, and of course patients.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Medical Assistant?
Becoming an effective medical assistant requires you to possess a relatively large toolbox of skills that are utilized on a day-to-day basis. These skills can be broken down into two categories, hard and soft skills.
Hard skills are those you acquire through career- and field-specific knowledge and training, as one would gain by enrolling in the Medical Assistant Program at Florida Career College. To become a successful medical assistant – a medical assistant that works effectively throughout an entire clinic or medical practice – one must acquire two sets of hard skills: administrative skills and clinical skills.
Administrative or “front-office” skills are required which allow medical assistants to perform the following tasks:
- Schedule patient appointments and referrals
- Update and organize medical charts
- Call prescriptions into local pharmacies
- Track and order clinic/office inventory
- General computer proficiency
- Office coordination and management duties
Hospitals, clinics, and private practices expect medical assistants to have the hard skills they need to effectively perform the following clinical, or “back-office,” tasks:
- Record and update patient records and medical histories
- Take and record vital signs
- Prepare patients for physician exams
- Provide information and instructions to patients
- Assist with medical exams, treatments, and procedures
- Clean exam rooms and sterilize equipment
- Collect lab specimens
- Notify patients of lab results
- Administer immunizations
- Remove sutures and change dressings
- Instruct patients about follow-up procedures, medications, special diets, etc.
- Perform ECGs
Soft skills, in contrast, are personality traits that you either have innately or which can evolve through experience – traits like leadership, communication, and time management skills. Essential soft skills employers look for in their medical assistants include:
- Communication skills
- Listening and perception
- Attention to detail
- Honesty and integrity
- Ability to work as part of a team
- Critical thinking
- Organizational skills
- Internally motivated
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Do You Need a Diploma to Become a Medical Assistant?
You do not need to have a specialized diploma or be licensed or certified to become a medical assistant in the State of Florida. That doesn’t mean the position of medical assistant isn’t unregulated in the state, however.
No High School Diploma?
We Have Options!
How Long Does it Take to Become a Medical Assistant?
The amount of time it takes to complete a full medical assistant training program depends on the post-secondary school and the program that you choose to enroll in.
While programs at vocational schools and career colleges (including Florida Career College) can take just a few months, other programs, such as those at community colleges and universities, can take longer.
In general, though, it takes much less time to complete a medical assistant training program than to become trained and licensed as a registered nurse or licensed physician.
Florida Career College offers a Medical Assistant Training Program that can be completed in as few as 10 months.
Our hybrid program includes online education and classes, hands-on, in-person training at one of our many FCC medical assistant labs, and real-world experience at a local practice or clinic through our externship program. When finished with all modules, all graduates will receive a diploma signifying the completion of the program.
Of course, as previously noted, it’s also possible to become a medical assistant in the State of Florida by professionally training alongside a physician while on the job. However, most employers usually prefer hiring medical assistants who have successfully completed a training program from an accredited school such as Florida Career College. This is so because many employers are aware that post-secondary educational intuitions provide students with the knowledge, skills, and training that they need to succeed as medical assistants.
Why Should You Become a Medical Assistant? (5 Reasons)
Whether you’ve long wanted to establish a career in the medical field or you simply love helping people and feel a career in healthcare may be right for you, we’re here to help. Here are five relevant reasons why you may benefit from education and training to become a medical assistant in your community:
1. The Need for Medical Assistants is Growing
The healthcare world needs medical assistants, and that need appears to be continually growing even (or perhaps especially) during the current pandemic. Furthermore, as the baby boomer generation ages, there will be an increased demand for preventative medical services, hence the need for medical assistants to aid healthcare professionals with caring for patients.
2. Medical Assistant is a Great Position from which to Start a Career in Healthcare
Not everyone with aspirations to start a career in the medical field has a background, or educational history most would describe as “traditional.” Nor does everyone have the time or finances available to commit toward the type of education and training required to become a nurse or physician.
Fortunately, training to become a medical assistant is (as we discuss below) is generally a quicker and easier process, providing you that foot in the door you need to gain career experience that could lead to greater opportunities in the healthcare field. And, because medical assistants perform a wide variety of tasks, they gain experience that can lead their careers in many different directions.
3. Training to Become a Medical Assistant Takes Months, Not Years
Unlike doctors and nurses, who take years to become fully trained and job-ready in their fields, those interested in medical assistant careers can be trained and job-ready in a matter of months. For example, students who enroll in the Medical Assistant Technician Program at FCC have the opportunity to complete their education and hands-on training while also earning real-world experience in the field and a diploma in as few as 10 months.
It should be noted that in a number of states, a formal education isn’t even required in order to become a medical assistant. However, few employers are likely to hire medical assistants with no prior education, training, or experience on their resumes. Therefore, programs like the one offered at FCC have worked with prospective employers to establish a curriculum that provides students with the education, skills, and hands-on experience employers are looking for when adding new members to their medical and administrative teams.
4. Medical Assistants Can Work in a Variety of Healthcare Environments
In the city, out in rural areas, by the mountains, along the coast, back in your hometown, near your best friends and favorite family members … if people live there, there’s a need for healthcare services. And, where there are hospitals, medical clinics, private practices, and care facilities, you will typically find a need for medical assistants.
Also, the need for medical assistants within a healthcare community isn’t just limited to clinics and private practices. Medical assistants can be found working in hospitals, outpatient operations, residential care facilities, medical research centers, labs, and so on.
Medical assistants also have an opportunity to specialize in the type of patients and care they provide. Many can establish fulfilling careers working in clinics and facilities that specialize in such care as pediatrics, geriatrics, OB-GYN, chiropractic, psychiatric, cardiology, and so on.
5. Medical Assisting Makes a Difference in the Lives of a Diverse Mix of People
We’ve established that medical assistants wear a lot of hats, but one of their most important roles is helping patients. Medical assistants serve as true patient advocates, from scheduling appointments and greeting them as they come for their appointments to explaining treatments and educating them about how to manage and improve their lives.
As such, medical assistants have the added opportunity to impact the lives of people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life. From children to the elderly, the capable to the disabled, the poor to the well-to-do, and so on, medical assistants become well-versed on the human condition, regardless of background. This makes the job more fulfilling for some while contributing to even greater career growth.
What Are the Differences Between a Medical Assistant vs. Certified Medical Assistant?
A certified medical assistant is one who has met special qualifications and has passed an examination given by a certifying organization in order to obtain special certification within the profession. Such certifications vary, yet each accomplishes something similar for the medical assistant who’s “qualified”: it confirms to potential employers that you’re educated, trained, and serious about the medical assisting profession. That said, Florida does not require medical assistants to obtain these or other professional certifications. Keep in mind, however, that some potential employers may require you to have one or more of these certifications before considering you for a position. Even if they don’t, obtaining such certifications helps you stand out from other applicants in a competitive job market.
What are the Benefits of Becoming a Medical Assistant?
Probably the greatest benefit of becoming a medical assistant is that you will have established a potentially long-term career in the medical field, during which you will have earned the opportunity to help people of all backgrounds live more healthful lives.
In doing so, you will also get the chance to work on a healthcare team made up of people with a diverse set of skills and training, from administrative and billing staff to doctors, nurses, and other specialists in the medical field. As medical assistants are trained to work with and coordinate tasks in both the front and back office, you will get a taste of the various duties and requirements involved in operating a clinic which, over time, might inspire you to consider additional options, education and training for more specialized healthcare positions.
Other benefits to training to become a medical assistant include:
- Training can take less than a year. If you’re in a hurry to begin a new career in the medical field, becoming a medical assistant is a great place to start as you can be career-ready in months, not years.
- It’s a career that offers lots of variety. No two days, hours, or minutes are the same for medical assistants, whose tasks generally involve both clinical and administrative tasks.
- You can work directly with patients. Scheduling appointments, greeting them as they arrive, taking them to their exam rooms, taking medical histories and vitals, assisting during the exam, collecting lab samples, explaining courses of care … so much of what medical assistants do involve patient interaction.
- Work in a variety of healthcare environments. Depending on your personal interests as well as long-term career aspirations, you can opt to work within the medical environment that best suits you. Whether it’s in a clinic, private practice, hospital, or long-term care facility – or whether you prefer pediatrics, OB-GYN, geriatrics, chiropractic, psychiatric, and so on – medical assistant positions are likely available.
- Work almost anywhere. Medical assistants are needed in clinics, hospitals, and other facilities no matter where they are – in cities, rural areas, close to friends and family, near favorite landmarks, or wherever.
- Work consistent hours. Not all medical assistant jobs are 8-to-5 weekday careers, but you’ll find that many offer consistent hours that might fit your personal needs and preferences.
- Medical assistants make a difference in patient care and services. By offering a high level of support and leadership in the clinic, medical assistants make it possible for nurses and physicians to focus their time on what most matters: their patients.
Why Choose FCC to Become a Medical Assistant?
At FCC, we offer our Medical Assistant Training Program at all of our campuses. By offering a mix of online classroom instruction, hands-on lab training, and clinical experience through our externship program, students learn and become confident in the skills they need to excel as medical assistants in the real world.
Here are some other advantages of choosing to enroll in Florida Career College’s Medical Assistant training program:
Complete the program in as few as 10 months.
FCC’s Medical Assistant diploma program is designed to be completed, and you can earn your diploma in as little as 10 months. This means that you can conceivably go from having no medical experience to being career-ready in the medical assisting field in under a year!
Our curriculum is established to match employer needs.
At FCC, we designed our curriculum to match the education and skillsets local employers are looking for when considering medical assistant candidates to join their healthcare teams. As needs and expectations continually evolve, we closely monitor potential market changes through trusted community partners in the field.
No high school diploma? You still have educational options.
Yes, employers do seek medical assistants who have a high school education. That’s why if incoming students never finished high school or earned a GED, we will help them earn their high school diplomas as they receive their medical assistant training.
Our instructors have experience in the field.
At FCC, we pride ourselves in hiring instructors that not only know the materials and can teach the skills necessary to graduate. Most of our instructors also boast years of experience in the medical assisting field, and their teaching reflects this by preparing students for real-world scenarios they are likely to encounter in their careers.
FCC’s hybrid model allows for greater flexibility.
Our hybrid teaching model provides students with a balanced mix of online classroom education as well as in-person, hands-on lab training on one of our campuses. This means students are not expected to make the trip to campus every day, allowing them the personal flexibility they need to work, care for their families, and tend to other commitments.
We provide hands-on training.
Despite the virtual nature of our online classes, we know that students cannot develop the relevant skills they need to become effective medical assistants without in-person training and practice. Therefore, all our students come to campus twice each week to work in the lab, where they will receive hands-on training for such tasks as taking patient information and vitals, drawing blood, making injections, and so on.
Externship offers real-world experience with a potential employer.
Following the completion of all classes and lab training requirements, all Medical Assistant Technician graduates will have also completed 180 hours of real-world training and experience through an externship at a local medical clinic, private practice, or hospital. Such experience helps open students’ eyes about what it takes to become an effective and successful medical assistant while also giving them the opportunity to impress what may become potential employers following graduation.
Our Career Services department will help you find a position.
Unlike some schools, FCC doesn’t simply hand over your diploma and wish you love following graduation. Our Career Services team continually works with students throughout their job searches, providing training and advice for constructing resumes and cover letters, impressing a potential employer during a job interview, and so on. The team also keeps tabs on the local job market, passing along potential medical assistant leads to students.
Financial aid is available for those who qualify.
FCC strives to help students establish financial plans for their educational journeys, plans that may include a combination of loans, grants, scholarships, and other sources of aid. We also offer a variety of special aid options for military veterans, active-duty military members, reservists, and their dependents.
We believe in second chances.
Nearly everyone has something in their personal histories – a false step, a questionable decision, an unfavorable consequence, et cetera – that doesn’t fully represent who they are or who they’re capable of becoming as a person. At FCC, we believe that such negative missteps can help motivate people toward a positive future. That’s why we believe in offering people second chances, especially when it comes to accessing education and training that can positively impact one’s future.
We care, and celebrate student success.
The culture at FCC was established with the student front-and-center in our minds. Everything we offer and everything we do is based on making our students succeed both in school and as professionals within their careers of choice. And, when a student overcomes challenges and achieves their career goals, we believe that’s cause for celebration! Read about student stories on our blog.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, medical assistants are not required to be licensed or certified in the State of Florida. However, obtaining a diploma helps students stand out in a competitive job market.