Certifications Help Boost Medical Assistant Salaries
Those who enjoy helping people and are looking for a career in a booming industry may need to look no further than the field of medical assisting.
Training, studying and certification are the key ingredients to success as a medical assistant. It’s a field with a bright future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of medical assistants will jump 31% jump from now until 2020 and earn a starting salary close to $30,000.
Medical Assistant Job Duties
A medical assistant is an allied health professional who can wear many hats throughout their career. They may work in reception, perform scheduling tasks and have light filing responsibilities. They could also be involved with billing, customer service, office management and a number of other clinical responsibilities. The more training a medical assistant has, the higher their earning potential will rise.
The most successful medical assistants are those who are good with people, detail oriented and excellent listeners who think on their feet. Not only could the medical assistant’s responsibilities include dealing with sick patients, they may have to report back to medical personnel such as doctors and nurses who are caring for the patients.
Medical Assistant Certification and Training
In the past, you could apply for a job as a medical assistant with little more than a GED or high school diploma, and receive on-the-job training. However, the responsibilities and demands of the medical assistant are changing as the impending 2015 electronic health record (EHR) deadline approaches. Medical facilities and healthcare providers are going to be in need of medical assistants that are well versed in new healthcare software and government regulations.
According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), “A greater number of employers are preferring (or even insisting) that their certified medical assistants be CMAs (AAMA).” [http://www.aama-ntl.org/becomeCMA/how.aspx]
Before becoming a certified medical assistant, training and clinical work may be necessary. A variety of institutions – community and junior colleges, technical colleges, vocational schools and even some universities – offer CMA diploma programs as well as degrees in medical assisting. However, not all educational institutions are accredited. In order to qualify for certain certifications such as the CMA (AAMA), the applicant must receive their training from an accredited education facility.
Once you’ve selected a program to join, areas of study you can look forward to getting to know can include:
• Basic anatomy and physiology
• Medical terminology, coding and software
• Human resources and office management
• Phlebotomy, which includes blood drawing, IV kits, and administering injections (depending on the state separate certification may be required)
• X-ray equipment operation [depending on the state separate certification may be required]
• HIPPA (Health Insurance Laws Portability and Accountability Act) law and regulations
Medical Assistant Certification – The Certifying Bodies
According to the BLS, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, accredits four certifications for medical assistants. They are:
• Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) – National Healthcareer Association
• Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) — American Association of Medical Assistants (AMMA)
• National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) – National Center for Competency Testing
• Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) – American Medical Technologists
Commonalities that the certifying bodies share are that applicants must be at least 18 years old at the time they apply for certification and must reapply for recertification after a specific length of time (depending on the credential) has passed.
Medical Assistant Salary
Probably the most sought after information about any career path is the earning potential. Salary information from the BLS indicates that certified medical assistants in the top 10% of their occupation earned more than $40,190 in 2010, while median annual salary was $28,860.
Due to the increasing demand for trained professionals in the healthcare arena, the need for educators has also increased. A recent survey conducted by the AMMA (the certifying body for CMAs), showed medical assistant educators who responded to the survey were earning between $40,000 to more than $60,000.
This data does not take into account benefits offered by employers such as insurance, continuing education, vacation time and 401k/retirement planning, among others.
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