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How to Become a Medical Assistant in California

If you want to work in health care sooner than later, a career as a medical assistant may be right for you. The medical assistant career path can also be a good way to get started in the field to see if you want to pursue further careers in the medical field. Plus, the schooling to work in this role is much shorter than for many medical careers.

Continue reading to learn more about pursuing a career as a medical assistant, what a medical assistant does, how to become a medical assistant in California, how to choose a clinical medical assisting program, and medical assistant requirements in california.

Why Become a Medical Assistant in California?

As a medical assistant in California, you’ll serve an important support role in the health care system, aiding licensed physicians and other medical staff in healing.

You may begin your career as a medical assistant with entry-level employment under the direct supervision of senior staff. As you learn the fundamentals of health care, you may be introduced to various niches in the health care field you may opt to pursue.

Find Your Path as a Medical Assistant

SJVC is committed to hands-on training in the skills you need as a medical assistant. Learn more about our program and exciting opportunities.

What Can a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical assistants work in clinical settings or physician offices help medical facilities and physician offices complete their administrative and clinical tasks. They may perform a range of duties, according to One*Net OnLine1, including:

  • Taking and recording vital signs and medical histories
  • Cleaning and sterilizing instruments and disposing of contaminated supplies
  • Preparing patients for examination and drawing blood
  • Preparing treatment rooms for patient examinations
  • Scheduling appointments, answering phones, billing, and coding information for insurance purposes


What a Medical Assistant Can’t Do

Medical assistants cannot perform invasive procedures on patients. Some disallowed procedures, according to the Medical Board of California2, include:

  • Administer chemotherapy
  • Use lasers to remove unwanted features on a patient, such as hair or scars
  • Inject collagen
  • Insert urinary catheters
  • Start, disconnect IV infusion tubes or administer medications in IV lines

It is illegal to use medical assistants as a substitute for highly trained and licensed medical professionals. Rather, an MA’s presence in a medical setting is to perform basic supportive services and to assist. Specific duties are aligned with the assistant’s required training.

Medical Assistant Skills

Good medical assistants who value their work and who are valued by employers often have a combination of skills that positively contribute to the work experience.

As a medical assistant, you should enjoy opportunities to work with people and help patients who may be from different cultures than your own, according to the State of California Employment Development Department.3

Having the ability to put people at ease is also a good trait to have in this role. That’s a skill that is helpful with patients who are reluctant to freely share their symptoms and other health-related information with medical staff. Some patients may also have limited English-speaking skills.

Some states and some work environments allow medical assistants to perform different tasks. In several states, clinical medical assistants can perform laboratory tests, draw blood, remove stitches or sterilize medical equipment. Each niche may also have specific tasks. A podiatric medical assistant, for instance, may make castings of feet or help in surgery.

Depending on your training, whether you have medical assisting certification, and the state you practice in, you may need specific skills for performing some of these tasks, according to the State of California Employment Development Department3, including:

Tasks Needed Skills
Obtaining medical information from patients Active Listening
Greeting patients, taking them to exam rooms, and preparing patients for the physician Customer and personal service
Recording patients’ medical history, vitals, and test results in records Clear, accurate writing
Collecting and logging patient lab specimens and preparing specimens for testing Problem sensitivity — ability to identify potential difficulties and missing information and know how to correct them
Explaining treatments procedures, medications, diets and physician’s patient instructions Good verbal communication skills
Assisting physicians in examining and treating patients, handing them instruments and giving injections or removing sutures Service oriented — eager to help and maintain a positive attitude
Authorizing drug refills and provide prescription information to pharmacies Clerical proficiency
Preparing patient treatment rooms and maintaining room cleanliness Information ordering — ability to arrange perform actions in a specific order or pattern, following certain rules

Technical Skills

Some technical skills you may need as a medical assistant, according to O*Net OnLine1, include the ability to use:

  • Basic clinical instruments
  • Scheduling, billing, and email software
  • Medical applications and tools
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Proficient understanding of operating systems

To learn more about how you can gain the skills to be a successful medical assistant we recommend enrolling in medical assistant schooling and taking a course or learning through hands-on education.

Kickstart Your Career as a Medical Assistant

Small class sizes, individual attention, and hands-on training in the skills you need. Learn more about how to become a medical assistant with SJVC.

How To Become a Medical Assistant

Learning to become a medical assistant is easier than you might think. While other health care roles often require years of schooling, a Clinical Medical Assisting certificate program can be completed in as few as nine months.. There are also options to earn an associate degree and most associate degree schooling tends to last about two years.

Prospective medical assistants can also learn the ropes by hands-on training. This usually begins as an internship or minor office position that eventually teaches you the skills needed to be a full-fledged medical assistant. The downside to this type of environment is that the learning format is unstructured, usually at the beck and call of your employer. This means you may master skills in that role that don’t translate well in another environment.

The easiest way to become a well-rounded medical assistant in California is through a regimented certificate program.

If you want to become a medical assistant, you should4:

  1. Earn a high school diploma or high school equivalency
  2. Complete a medical assisting program at a community college, vocational or technical school or university to earn a certificate, diploma, or an associate degree.

Medical Assistant Online Programs

You can learn to become a medical assistant through online programs that teach you the knowledge and skills you need. Online Medical Assisting programs may offer:

  • Dynamic online technology
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Support toward gaining the skills needed to become a valuable part of a medical team

Of course, online learning isn’t right for everyone. SJVC also offers in-person medical assistant training at most of the College’s campus locations.

How Long Does it Take To Become a Medical Assistant?

A factor to consider is the length of the course and its curriculum. Since there are two programs to choose from, certificate programs and associate degree programs, there are two outcomes to consider before enrolling in medical assistant schooling.

If you are considering career advancement opportunities, then the associate degree program that teaches more extensive knowledge combined with hands-on experience may be the fit for you.

However, if you are looking to gain skills quickly so you can receive a job sooner, then a certificate program will provide you with the career training and experience you need for entry-level positions. Many medical assistants begin their career with certificate programs to get their feet wet before jumping into the deep end with additional courses.

Uncertified vs Certified Medical Assistants in California

Medical assistants (MAs) are unlicensed in California, but they may have certification credentials. Certifications that validate they meet a specific set of criteria in skills and training.

California MAs without certification may perform non-invasive support services — those that don’t involve tools that break the skin or enter the body — under the direction of a licensed surgeon, physician, podiatrist, midwife, or nurse, according to Medical Board of California guidelines2. The supervisory medical person must be on the premises in a medical office or clinical setting when services are performed by an uncertified MA.

The California Code of Regulations sections 1366.3(a)(1) and 1366.3(a)(2)2 specify requirements that medical assistants must gain experience.

Possible Benefits of Completing a Medical Assistant Training Program

While California does not require medical assistants to be certified, there can be upsides to completing a training program. Employers may prefer to hire the most knowledgeable and competent support staff.

An assistant who has graduated from an accredited college or university, or a medical assistant who has earned credentials may have an upperhand in getting hired over someone who isn’t credentialed. Earning your certificate may possibly give you the competitive edge you need to land the job you want.

According to the California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants,5 Other benefits may include:

  • Increased recognition and respect by peers and colleagues
  • Greater confidence in in professional competence
  • Increased professional trust from employers
  • Increased autonomy in the workplace
  • Possibly better compensation opportunities and career longevity

What To Look For in a Medical Assistant Training Program

When choosing a college or university program to enroll in, there are a few things to consider in an educational medical assistant training program. Take a look at the externship opportunities that will be required of you. Many medical assistant schooling programs will set you up with a local clinic or medical setting where you will learn in real-life situations.There are many schools that teach the skills needed to be a competent medical assistant. You can begin by researching SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting and Clinical and Administrative Medical Assisting programs as a benchmark.

SJVC programs offer hands-on training in an environment that helps students thrive. The faculty have real expertise in the field and bring their knowledge and experience to the classroom, preparing students for a fulfilling career.

Learn about courses you may take when taking SJVC medical assistant classes

Launch a Career in Medical Assisting With SJVC

SJVC offers quality training programs that prepare medical assistants for success in their field. Class sizes are small and encourage relationship development with your instructor to learn the ins-and-outs of the job. Hands-on training and practical labs teach and test the skills needed to thrive as a medical assistant after graduation. Read important information on SJVC program outcomes.

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