To become a medical assistant, an individual needs to complete a postsecondary education program or earn on-the-job training, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While not necessary, a medical assistant can become certified to improve job prospects.
Examples of postsecondary education programs for medical assistants include certificates and diplomas offered by vocational schools, community colleges, universities and technical schools, notes the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Such programs usually take a year to complete, but an individual can earn an associate degree after two years of study. Programs involve classroom and laboratory study in which students learn about medical terminology and anatomy.
Individuals who only have a high school education can earn on-the-job training from physicians and other medical assistants, states the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Such training often includes performing daily tasks, learning medical instruments, medical terminology, coding health records, working with patients and keeping the workplace operating efficiently. On-the-job training usually takes several months but ultimately depends on the facility.
Depending on the state, medical assistants may be required to pass an exam, complete an approved program or both to give patients injections, take X-rays and complete other advanced tasks. Assistants who desire to become certified have several certifications to choose from, including registered medical assistant, certified medical assistant, certified medical administrative assistant and certified clinical medical assistant. Either passing an exam or graduating from an approved program is required for certification in addition to the applicant being at least 18 years old, the Bureau of Labor Statistics explains.