How to Become a Medical Assistant (MA)

Like licensed practical/vocational nurses, Medical Assistants (MAs) play a crucial role in healthcare settings, providing essential support to physicians and other healthcare professionals. If you have a passion for healthcare and enjoy working in a dynamic environment, a career as a medical assistant might be the perfect fit for you. Read on as we guide you through the steps to becoming a medical assistant, from understanding the role to fulfilling educational requirements and applying for jobs.

Step 1: Understand the Role of a Medical Assistant

Before embarking on the journey to become a medical assistant, it's essential to have a clear understanding of the role and responsibilities associated with the position. Medical assistants are healthcare professionals who perform both administrative and clinical tasks. In fact, some may choose to focus on Clinical Medical Assisting, helping physicians and medical professionals with patient-care duties, and some may prefer Administrative Medical Assisting, where the focus is on front-office duties like greeting patients, scheduling appointments, and handling paperwork. Medical assistants of all kinds work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices.

Medical Assistants vs LPNs

Understanding the distinctions between medical assistants and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) is essential for those considering or involved in the healthcare field. Despite both roles contributing to patient care, they encompass distinct educational requirements, practice scopes, and responsibilities. This distinction is crucial for individuals navigating their career paths in healthcare.

Medical Assistants primarily focus on:

  • Administrative tasks
  • Patient interaction
  • Assisting with procedures
  • Office management
  • Communication and coordination

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) primarily focus on:

  • Clinical care
  • Patient assessment
  • Wound care and procedures
  • Collaborative care
  • Patient education

Step 2: Fulfill the Educational Requirements of a Medical Assistant

To pursue a career as a medical assistant, you'll need to meet certain educational requirements. While some medical assistants enter the field with only a high school diploma, obtaining formal education and training can enhance your skills and job prospects.

Community colleges, vocational schools, and technical institutes offer medical assistant programs that typically result in a diploma, certificate, or associate degree. These programs cover a range of subjects, including medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and medical office procedures. Additionally, hands-on clinical training is often a vital component of these programs, providing students with practical experience in healthcare settings.


While certification is not always mandatory, obtaining certification can significantly boost your credibility and employability as a medical assistant. The two primary certifying bodies for medical assistants are the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

To become a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) through the AAMA, you must graduate from a Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) accredited medical assisting program and pass the CMA Certification Exam. The NHA offers the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification, which requires candidates to complete an accredited training program or have equivalent work experience.

Certification exams typically cover a broad range of topics, including medical procedures, pharmacology, medical laws and ethics, and patient care. Successfully passing these exams demonstrates your competence and commitment to maintaining high standards in the field.

Step 3: Apply For Medical Assistant Jobs

Once you've completed your education and, if applicable, obtained certification, the next step is to start applying for medical assistant positions. Here are some tips to help you navigate the job application process:

  • Build a Strong Resume: Craft a well-organized and professional resume that highlights your education, training, and any relevant work experience or internships. Emphasize your skills in medical office procedures, patient care, and proficiency in using electronic health record (EHR) systems.
  • Network in the Healthcare Community: Networking is a valuable tool for finding job opportunities in the healthcare industry. Attend career fairs, join professional associations, and connect with professionals in the field. Networking can provide insights into job openings, and personal connections can be instrumental in securing interviews.
  • Prepare for Interviews: Be ready to discuss your education, training, and any relevant experience during job interviews. Employers may ask about your knowledge of medical procedures, your ability to handle administrative tasks, and your communication skills. Prepare for common interview questions and be ready to provide examples of how you've handled challenging situations in the past.''
  • Consider Specializing: As you enter the job market, consider whether you want to specialize in a particular area of healthcare. Some medical assistants choose to focus on administrative tasks, while others may prefer a more clinical role. Specializing can make you more marketable and open up additional career opportunities.
Last Updated/Verified: Feb 14, 2024