Medical Assistant Programs in California
What do Medical Assistants do? The Medical Board of California has outlined acceptable duties for medical assistants, and there are a lot of them. In addition to clerical and administrative duties, medical assistants may perform various minor and noninvasive procedures. They may do finger sticks, administer flu shots and certain other subcutaneous injections, take blood pressure, and perform hearing screenings. For this, they need medical training. Some procedures have required minimum training hours and required competency testing. For instance, a medical assistant must correctly perform ten venipuncture and ten skin puncture procedures.
Legally, medical assistant training may take place in a postsecondary program or be carried out on the job by a qualified medical practitioner. Pragmatically speaking, a person is much more likely to get a Medical Assistant job if they passed a formal training program beforehand!
Medical Assistant Certification in California
Certification is required for medical assistants who perform certain types of medical procedures. The two best known certifying agencies for medical assistants are AAMA and AMT. California medical assistants may also be certified through the California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants . This organization is unique in that it has its own certifying test. A candidate may choose to specialize in clinical or administrative medical assisting or both; s/he needs to take the portion of the examination which focuses on basic medical assisting concepts and at least one specialty. Tests are administered in both computer-assisted and pencil and paper formats and may be taken in any of a number of California cities. Certification confers the title CCMA-A, CCMA-C, or CCMA-AC. Recertification is required every five years through either retesting or acquisition of continuing medical education units. A total of 60 units are required; this must include 30 in the basic category and 15 in any specialty area. California medical assistants may want to join the California Medical Assistants Association for networking opportunities as well as continuing education opportunities. There are thirteen regional chapters. Several regional branches, including San Diego, Sacramento, and Los Angeles, hold monthly meetings. [Learn more about the CMA and RMA process here]
California Medical Assistant Resources
California makes a distinction administrative and clinical medical assistants, so do California schools. A student may have a choice between clinical medical assisting, administrative medical assisting, and combined clinical and administrative programs. All programs will likely include some training in managing the medical front desk. A clinical program may go more into depth in medical procedures and in topics like assisting with minor surgeries. An administrative program, on the other hand, will go more into depth in topics that do not involve patient care. It will also include some billing and coding instruction, though it would take additional study or on the job training to pass national board certifying exams in those areas. There are six month and eight month medical assistant programs offered in California as well as Associate’s degree programs that take about two years to complete.
California medical assistants can also become members of the California Society of Medical Assistants. There are four regional chapters: in the Bay area, Glendale, Centenela Valley and the Pacific Coast region.
Medical Assistant Salary and Job Outlook in California
In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the State of California Employment Development Department predicted that California’s medical assisting field would see 22.4% growth over the coming decade, with 3,050 positions opening each year. In other words, there is a lot of opportunity.
In California, salaries vary quite a bit by region. The Vallejo-Fairfield metropolitan area reports the highest wages in the nation: $20.68. Another California city, Salinas, is #2 in the U.S. at $19.70. The San Francisco-Redwood City-San Mateo area is also in the top five at $18.55. Workers in the greater Los Angeles area earn between $14 and $15 an hour. Oakland is at $16.53, Riverside $12.84, and San Diego $14.80. As of May, 2011 the mean annual salary for the 81,860 Medical Assistants in California was $32,300.
A separate survey by Payscale placed San Jose #1 in the nation for certified medical assistant salaries.
You may also want to explore Allied Health, Sciences and Nursing programs in California.
Medical Assistant Programs Offered in Your State
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