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How to Become Certified Medical Assistant: Responsibilities, Opportunities and Skills

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Certified medical assistants (CMAs) are allied healthcare professionals who work in various settings and provide a wide range of services in support of healthcare systems.


While their role is distinct from nursing, these healthcare professionals are vital to the functioning of medical facilities. They manage a variety of clinical and administrative tasks and responsibilities — from direct care to updating records to scheduling appointments — while ensuring patients’ safety and confidentiality.


Because of their versatility, certified medical assistants enjoy stable demand and job growth, especially those who have trained via a certified medical assistant program, earned certification, and hold a bachelor’s degree, such as a RN to BSN online.


If you’re thinking about a career in medical assisting — or you’re a prospective student curious about the profession — keep reading to learn more about what certified medical assistants do, what skills are required for the job, and how you can become one.

Certified Medical Assistant Job Description

Often, a certified medical assistant is a patient’s first and last point of contact when they visit a healthcare facility. CMAs help patients feel comfortable and at ease upon arrival to their appointment or examination. During the visit, medical assistants also act as health advocates for patients and as liaisons between patients and licensed providers, making sure the physician’s instructions, diagnosis, and next steps are clearly communicated to and understood by the patient.


It is a certified medical assistant’s job to do all this while managing a variety of other tasks.


Certified medical assistants are versatile, personable members of a healthcare team who are trained to perform clinical and administrative tasks, including:


  • Collecting medical histories: At the beginning of the examination, certified medical assistants ask patients basic questions about their medical history. These questions may include what medications the patient is currently taking, what previous diagnoses the patient has had, and whether their family has a history of heart disease, diabetes, or other conditions.
  • Measuring patient vital signs: CMAs record patients’ vital signs by taking their blood pressure, measuring their heart rate, and performing other tests.
  • Entering data into charts and medical records: Certified medical assistants use computer applications and other nursing technology to maintain and update electronic medical records and to enter a patient’s vital signs and other data into charts for the physician or other licensed provider to reference.
  • Administering medication: Certified medical assistants educate patients on their medications and may even be directed by the physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant to prepare and administer medications, including vaccinations and immunizations.
  • Obtaining lab samples: CMAs may conduct lab tests and collect and prepare laboratory specimens.


Certified medical assistants also may be responsible for other administrative and clinical tasks as needed and for which they’ve been trained, such as transmitting prescription refills and scheduling.

Working Environment

The majority of certified medical assistants practice in physicians’ offices. Some medical assistants work alongside physicians and other licensed providers in hospitals and outpatient centers, where they may practice direct care — such as dressing and monitoring wounds — as well as coordinate hospital admissions for patients when necessary. Some medical assistants work in chiropractors’ offices.


Full-time CMAs typically work a five-day, 40-hour week, although some full-time or part-time medical assistants may work during evenings or on weekends.

Fundamental Skills for Certified Medical Assistants

Certified medical assistant programs prepare students with the soft skills and the hard — or technical — skills they need to perform clinical and administrative tasks.

Soft Skills

The following are some of the soft, or nonclinical, skills certified medical assistants need:


  • Analytical skills: Certified medical assistants need competent analytical skills for certain administrative tasks, including coding and processing patient billing and insurance forms.
  • Attention to detail: CMAs perform many administrative and clinical tasks — such as administering medications, including intramuscular, intradermal, and subcutaneous injections — that require a keen attention to detail.
  • Communication skills: Certified medical assistants are liaisons between patients and providers and need strong communication skills to assist during examinations. They also must be able to communicate clearly in writing and over the phone with patients and staff, as well as medical representatives outside their offices.
  • People skills: Because they are the first and last point of contact with patients during an appointment or examination, CMAs need to be patient, personable, and trustworthy.

Hard or Technical Skills

Certified medical assistants need specific training in certain hard — or technical — skills to perform clinical and administrative tasks, such as:


  • Blood drawing
  • Record-keeping
  • Scheduling
  • Understanding of medical terminology

Opportunities to Enroll in a Certified Medical Assistant Program

A number of factors go into a person’s choice of healthcare career, and individuals who choose to become certified medical assistants are no different.

Why Be a Medical Assistant?

Because they often have more one-on-one time with in-clinic patients than physicians and other licensed providers, certified medical assistants have a significant impact on patients and their experience with the healthcare facility.


In addition to providing the many shared benefits of working in healthcare, the medical assisting profession affords professionals more clinical responsibilities than healthcare coordinators and other administrative staff have, such as responsibility for the following:


  • Assisting with procedures
  • Learning new technical skills
  • Training new employees in administrative and clinical tasks
  • Having a more direct, overall impact on the quality of care a patient receives


Career-minded individuals who are well-rounded, caring, and interested in working in healthcare may find these compelling answers to the question, why be a medical assistant?

How to Become a Medical Assistant

Prospective medical assistants typically need special certification to practice as CMAs. To become certified, individuals are required to have a high school diploma, GED, or other high school education equivalency.


They also need to have completed some postsecondary education — such as a medical assisting diploma or certificate program or an associate degree in medical assisting program — or have one to three years of work experience in the medical assisting field.


Once they’ve met some combination of the above requirements, prospective medical assistants will be able to become certified. Below are some examples of medical assisting certification opportunities:


  • Certified Medical Assistant CMA (AAMA) exam: This certification exam is administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam: American Medical Technologies (AMT) administers the RMA exam.
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam: The CCMA exam is administered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).


In addition to completing the required certification, earning a postsecondary degree like a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can open the door to other opportunities in healthcare settings. The medical-assisting field is one attractive option among many possible BSN careers.

Certified Medical Assistant Salary and Job Outlook

Demand for certified medical assistants has made this profession one of the fastest-growing career fields in the nation. One of the reasons for this demand for medical assisting professionals is their versatile skill set in administrative and clinical responsibilities. Given their range of abilities, the value of and need for medical assistants will continue to increase through the next decade.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Salary Expectations

In May 2021, medical assistants’ median annual wage was $37,190, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Ultimately, a certified medical assistant’s salary depends on their location and level of education, experience, and certification.

Certified Medical Assistant Jobs Outlook

The number of medical assistant jobs is expected to increase by 16% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS. This rate of growth is well above the average projected for all occupations over the next decade. Approximately 123,000 medical-assisting jobs are projected to be available each year, according to the BLS.

Increase Your Opportunities as a Certified Medical Assistant

If you’re looking for a rewarding profession in direct patient care, you may want to consider becoming a certified medical assistant. These personable, versatile, and skilled multitaskers are often a patient’s chief ally in healthcare facilities, ensuring patients feel comfortable and that they understand their licensed provider’s instructions.


As a CMA, you’ll enjoy stable employment and additional opportunities for career growth and leadership roles, especially if you hold a bachelor’s degree. Explore Maryville’s University’s RN to BSN online to see how you can access a fulfilling career as a medical assistant.


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