How Long Does It Take To Become A Medical Assistant [Plus 3 Important Things To Consider]

Sep 13, 2021

If you have a passion for medicine and helping others, you may have considered becoming a medical assistant, but how long does it take to become a medical assistant?  Medical assistants are responsible for carrying out a multitude of clinical as well as administrative tasks, and are essential to the day-to-day function of healthcare facilities like clinics, hospitals, and physician’s offices. As a medical assistant you might find yourself tracking patient appointments, taking patients’ blood pressure, and even preparing lab tests. 


Being such an essential position, medical assistants are in high demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for medical assistants is projected to grow 14% between 2019 and 2029, which is much higher than the 4% average of all occupations, making it a job that is extremely likely to keep growing. If you’re passionate about medicine, detail-oriented, and goal-driven, being a medical assistant may be the right job for you. So, how long does it take to become a medical assistant?


The First Steps

How long does it take to become a medical assistant may depend on a few factors, but the first step for all medical assistants is earning a high school degree or a GED. There are several avenues for people to become medical assistants afterward, and how long it takes after high school or receiving a GED depends on how you receive vocational training, and—if you choose a post-secondary program—which program you choose.  

1. Post-Secondary Education and Training

Though having at least a high school diploma or GED is required, generally there are no strict requirements that a medical assistant receive post-secondary education. However, post-secondary education and becoming a certified medical assistant can improve job outlook and preparedness, as medical assistants must have extensive on the job otherwise. 


Employers are more likely to opt for already-certified individuals since they will not require nearly as much training on the job. Attending a medical assistant program and becoming certified is a great way to show employers that you’re passionate, dedicated, and prepared for this essential role. 


Additionally, the hands-on training most medical assisting programs offer better prepares candidates for the fast-paced world of medicine. Post-secondary medical assistant programs usually take between 9 months and 2 years to complete, and the time to complete them varies by program. 

2. Certifications for Medical Assistants

After earning a GED or high school diploma and before deciding on a program to attend, individuals wishing to become a certified medical assistant can choose a certification to earn. Different post-secondary medical assistant programs prepare and qualify individuals for different certifications, and at the end of a post-secondary program, students are generally set up to take a certification exam, but there are five accredited certifications aspiring medical assistants can choose from:


  • Certified Medical Assistant, or CMA, from the American Association of Medical Assistants
  • Registered Medical Assistant, or RMA, from American Medical Technologists
  • National Certified Medical Assistant, or NCMA from the National Center for Competency Testing
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, or CCMA from the National Healthcareer Association
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant, or CMAA, from the National Healthcareer Association

3. Finding the Right Program

Those wishing to become a medical assistant through post-secondary education can attend vocational schools or medical assistant programs at community colleges. Post-secondary education varies in time and depends in part on the program one chooses. 


Programs offer varying levels of training and education. Finding course listings for programs and comparing them can help you understand how much time you might need to be ready to become a medical assistant, and—while some programs take longer than others—spending more time training may prepare you better for the job. 


Finding an accredited program is also important, since degrees from non-accredited institutions usually don’t count toward certification prerequisites. Finding a program geared towards the certification you wish to earn is another helpful step. 


Certification exams—while not required by most states—will increase your chances of getting hired and being prepared for the job. Employers can also use certifications to gauge how prepared you are for the job and weigh them heavily in the hiring process. 


So, how long does it take to become a medical assistant? If you wish to become a medical assistant, post-secondary education and certifications can take a year or two to earn after high school or earning a GED, and are great ways to help further your career and increase job outlook. They’ll also better prepare you for the essential role medical assistants fill. Want to learn more about becoming a medical assistant? Learn more with our Ultimate Guide: How to Become a Medical Assistant.

If you are interested in pursuing the path of becoming a medical assistant check out Chattanooga College’s medical assistant program here!