How To Become Medical Assistant In California

Looking for information about How To Become Medical Assistant In California? A medical assistant duties include the handling of patient information, such as insurance, billing and appointment scheduling. If you are looking for high school preparation in medical assistant job field, learn how to become a medical assistant by attending a medical assistant program in California. This website contains valuable information and helpful suggestions that may prove to be beneficial to you. Here you will find more information on how to become a certified medical assistant (CMA) – also known as a medical administrative professional.

A medical assistant plays a crucial role in the success of a healthcare clinic. A small mistake can be disastrous and contributes to lawsuits. It is important that as an aspiring medical assistant in california you understand your responsibilities before you are hired for the job. It is also important to know the duties required of you and make sure that you can handle them.

what does a medical assistant do?

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

Duties

Medical assistants typically do the following:

  • Record patient history and personal information
  • Measure vital signs, such as blood pressure
  • Help physicians with patient examinations
  • Give patients injections or medications as directed by physicians and as permitted by state law
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Prepare blood samples for laboratory tests
  • Enter patient information into medical records

Medical assistants take and record patients’ personal information. They must be able to keep that information confidential and discuss it only with other medical personnel who are involved in treating the patient.

Electronic health records (EHRs) are changing some medical assistants’ jobs. More and more physicians are adopting EHRs, moving all their patient information from paper to electronic records. Assistants need to learn the EHR software that their office uses.

Medical assistants should not be confused with physician assistants, who examine, diagnose, and treat patients under a physician’s supervision.

In larger practices or hospitals, medical assistants may specialize in either administrative or clinical work.

Administrative medical assistants often fill out insurance forms or code patients’ medical information. They often answer telephones and schedule patient appointments.

Clinical medical assistants have different duties, depending on the state where they work. They may do basic laboratory tests, dispose of contaminated supplies, and sterilize medical instruments. They may have additional responsibilities, such as instructing patients about medication or special diets, preparing patients for x rays, removing stitches, drawing blood, or changing dressings.

Some medical assistants specialize according to the type of medical office where they work. The following are examples of specialized medical assistants:

Ophthalmic medical assistants and optometric assistants help ophthalmologists and optometrists provide eye care. They show patients how to insert, remove, and care for contact lenses. Ophthalmic medical assistants also may help an ophthalmologist in surgery.

Podiatric medical assistants work closely with podiatrists (foot doctors). They may make castings of feet, expose and develop x rays, and help podiatrists in surgery.

how to become a medical assistant

The path to becoming a medical assistant includes a few important steps. Learn more about the milestones you should be planning for along the way.

1. Earn a medical assisting diploma

While it’s true some may be able to find a medical assistant position straight out of high school, the Bureau of Labor statistics says many employers may prefer candidates who have completed postsecondary training programs.1 Additionally, many employers prefer to hire certified medical assistants (CMAs) or registered medical assistants (RMAs)—with both credentials requiring candidates to complete a diploma or certificate program.

When choosing a medical assisting program, be sure to consider factors like alumni outcomes, program accreditation, how courses are delivered (online versus in-person), commute time, program costs and the hands-on training you’ll receive.

Some of these factors may play a big role in your decision-making. For example, while online courses may be more convenient, you’ll also want to be sure that you get a mix of important hands-on experience as direct patient care work requires practice. The Rasmussen College Medical Assisting program combines both residential and online courses. In the on-campus courses, students get vital hands-on experience by learning various patient care techniques like patient triage strategies and how to assist with various procedures. This hands-on experience helps future medical assistants to carry themselves professionally and confidently step into their new roles on day one.

2. Build medical assisting experience with internships

In addition to coursework and labs in your medical assisting program, you’ll also want to complete an internship or externship toward the end of your program. During this time, you’ll get the opportunity to practice the skills you’ve been developing in the classroom at a clinic, specialty practice or hospital. Students shadow experienced medical assistants and often take on tasks like drawing blood from patients under supervision. 

Not only will this experience give you many highlights to include on your resume, you’ll feel empowered walking into job interviews after graduation.

“The program ensures students are prepared to gain employment as an entry-level medical assistant, says Denise Pufall, department chair of the Rasmussen College Medical Assisting program. Pufall says she takes great pride in the professionalism the program instills in students. “Our employers comment all the time on how professional our students and graduates are when entering their facilities.”

3. Get certified

As we mentioned before, depending on employer preferences and the state you want to work in, you may need to pass a certification exam. Two primary certification options are the Certified Medical Assistant CMA (AAMA)® exam and the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)® exam. Both will cover a variety of crucial topics like anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, safety and legal compliance. Sound intimidating? Don’t sweat it too much—a quality medical assistant program will provide you with everything you need. 

If employers in your area don’t require certification, remember that pursuing one of these options is still an excellent way to help boost your resume and stand out as a candidate when applying.

4. Take stock of your skills

After you complete a medical assisting program, you’ll have a whole new arsenal of skills in your toolbelt. In terms of technical skills, you should have a strong grasp on:

  • Medical terminology
  • Patient etiquette
  • How to use electronic health records (EHR)
  • How to perform healthcare administrative tasks

These are skills you certainly want to list on your resume, but don’t forgot about soft skills as well. Also known as transferable skills, these are skills you likely possessed before but have developed as part of your time in school. As a medical assistant, you’ll use soft skills like:

  • Empathy—health problems can be scary and a little empathy can help your patient feel much more comfortable.
  • Multi-tasking—medical assistants are expected to complete a number of varied duties within a short time frame. Being able to keep your mind and body moving can help you check items off the list easily.
  • Communication skills—medical assistants work on a team of healthcare providers in an environment where strong communication is critical for patient safety and the efficient operation of a facility.

Examples and stories of how you’ve used your soft skills to benefit others will come in handy when applying and interviewing for medical assisting jobs. When you think of examples during your medical assisting schooling, don’t forgot to write them down to refer to later.

5. Apply and interview

Here’s where it all becomes real! No matter what sort of training you have, it’s to your benefit to reach out, take initiative and pursue the type of career you want. If you’re willing to move, that could affect the steps you need to take to become an MA as well, including certification. Keep combing through your resume, rehearsing your responses for interviews and polishing your technical skills. If your job search is taking longer than you’d like, consider volunteering at a local hospital to add more healthcare experience to your resume.

It also doesn’t hurt to apply to a wide variety of places—clinics, specialty centers and hospitals. Even if you were set on one particular workplace before, be open to the possibilities. When you go in for your interview, you may find that you enjoy the environment more than you originally thought.

Keep in mind that if you have a degree or a diploma, your school may be able to help connect you with alumni in the area who may know of opportunities or can get you an interview with the right person. Also, if you had a positive experience at your medical assisting externship, be sure to ask whether the staff knows of any opportunities either at their workplace or in their network. You never know where a connection might lead!

How To Become Medical Assistant In California

Steps to Becoming a Medical Assistant in California

Step 1. Receive Training Recognized by the Medical Board of California

While the Medical Board of California does not license or register medical assistants, it does require employers to ensure medical assistants have received the proper training.

That means that upon getting hired your employer must verify that you’ve completed one of the following recognized courses of training:

  • Direct training under a licensed physician or podiatrist; or under a registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, physician assistant, or qualified medical assistant

OR

  • Training in a secondary, post-secondary, or adult education program in a public school authorized by the Department of Education; in a community college program, or in a post-secondary institution approved or accredited by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education within the Department of Consumer Affairs

Step 2. Earn Medical Assistant Certification

State and/or national certification is not a requirement to practice as a medical assistant in California, but it sure doesn’t hurt to earn one or more of these designations.

State/national certification not only positions you as an expert in your field, it may also be requirement of your employer and/or employer’s malpractice insurance carrier, even if the state of California doesn’t strictly require it.

In California, the Medical Board offers a state certification for medical assistants:

  • California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants: California Certified Medical Assistant (CCMA)

Step 3. Find a Medical Assisting Job with One of California’s Top Employers

Connecting with others in the field and staying current on the latest happenings in the profession is best achieved through membership in a professional association, such as the California Society of Medical Assistants.

One of the best ways to land a job you’ll love is by checking out opportunities through the state’s biggest physician practices and clinics, such as:

  • Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, Oakland
  • UCLA Medical Group, Los Angeles
  • EMCARE Nationwide, Santa Barbara
  • Palo Alto Medical Foundation Clinic, Santa Cruz
  • UC Davis Medical Group, Roseville
  • California Emergency Physicians, Pomona
  • UC San Diego Medical Group, San Diego

Medical Assistant Salary

When it comes to salary, the median annual earnings for medical assistants in May 2019 was $34,800, according to the BLS4. The highest ten percent earned more than $48,720, while the lowest ten percent earned less than $25,820. Medical assistants earned the most pay in outpatient care centers, hospitals and physician offices.

Most medical assistants are employed full-time working in air-conditioned offices or clinical settings. Medical assistants may be required to work evenings, weekends and holidays as medical facilities are always open.

medical assistant in california salary

As of Jan 18, 2022, the average annual pay for a Kaiser Medical Assistant in California is $53,129 an year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $25.54 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,022/week or $4,427/month.

While ZipRecruiter is seeing salaries as high as $138,619 and as low as $19,662, the majority of Kaiser Medical Assistant salaries currently range between $29,001 (25th percentile) to $81,597 (75th percentile) with top earners (90th percentile) making $102,242 annually in California.

The average pay range for a Kaiser Medical Assistant varies greatly (as much as $52,596), which suggests there may be many opportunities for advancement and increased pay based on skill level, location and years of experience.

Certification Renewal Requirements

You may recertify your CMA credential by retaking the exam within 60 months of passing or with continuing education.  Continuing education to maintain or recertify your CMA includes 60 credit hours, 30 of which is the minimum amount required to be taken through the AAMA.

To recertify as an RMA, you will have to comply with a  Certification Continuation Program (CCP) every three years and abide by the AMT Standards of Practice.

Best Schools for a Medical Assistant Degree in California

Santa Rosa Junior College

At Santa Rosa Junior College, students may complete an associate degree in medical assisting with one of three emphases: administrative medical assisting, clinical medical assisting, or clinical and administrative medical assisting. Students in these programs will become fluent in medical terminology and be able to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of medical and administrative procedures. Many credits offered at SRJC are fully transferable, allowing students to continue their education at a different school if they need to transfer. SRJC also offers several courses in an online format, which largely beneficial to students with familial or work obligations that might otherwise interfere with earning a degree.

Contra Costa College

Contra Costa College offers a two-year associate of science program with an emphasis in medical assisting that will prepare students for employment in a hospital, clinical, or medical office. Students under this program will be able to concurrently complete a certificate of achievement in medical assisting and office technician, as well as a certificate in medical terminology. Most Contra Costa credits may be transferred to other two-year and four-year schools of higher education, and also honors applicable credits earned at other institutions. While Contra Costa associate programs often take around two years, students can meet with their academic advisor to build a schedule that utilizes winter and summer classes, allowing for the quickest route to graduation.

West Valley College

Students who complete the medical assisting program at West Valley College will be able to demonstrate a well-rounded understanding of administrative and basic medical procedures common to hospitals, clinics, and medical offices. This 42-unit program will take the typical full-time student just over three semesters to complete, allowing them to begin their career as a medical assistant as quickly as possible. One of the greatest benefits of studying at West Valley is its affordability; students are able to get the same quality education as is offered at four-year schools of higher education without paying the high prices common to upper-level schools.

Cabrillo College

In addition to completing an associate of science degree in medical assisting at Cabrillo College, students also have the option to concurrently complete a certificate in medical assisting or phlebotomy, further specializing their learning for a competitive job market. Through a series of in-class and clinical courses, students will learn basic skills in medical terminology, human anatomy and physiology, and understanding medical laws and ethics. Students coming in from a different school of higher education may be able to receive credit for their previously completed classes, given that they match Cabrillo College’s degree requirements.

Saddleback College

Student who are interested in beginning a career in the developing field of medical assisting may wish to consider completing one of Saddleback College’s medical certificate programs, including administrative medical assisting, clinical medical assisting, and comprehensive medical assisting. Graduates from these programs are able to demonstrate the skills medical employers are looking for in an employee, such as an understanding for medical billing and coding procedures, the ability to aid in basic examinations, and a comprehensive understanding of medical terminology. Students attending Saddleback College may wish to complete some of their coursework in an online format, allowing them to further their education without disrupting their daily lives.

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