If you just graduated from a community college or medical assistant training program and you’re ready to start working as an M.A., there are a few things you should know. First, the competition will be fierce as more young people flood medical centers, clinics and hospitals with the type of training that more or less matches yours. Second, your fellow job seekers will be fine-tuning their resumes and interviewing skills to get on the short list of candidates. Third, they’ll have the passion and the drive to get the job many people are seeking. So what can you do to give yourself the edge? Some suggestions:
Match Degree and Credentials to the Job
Make sure your resume and cover letter show how your degree, training and credentials match the M.A. position you’re applying for. There are so many different schools, training centers and credentialing organizations that hiring managers may not be aware how your specific training prepares you for the job they’re offering. If you’re lucky enough to get an interview, be ready to explain how your training and degree match up to the job.
Get AAMA Certified
To get on the short list of candidates for any MA position, you’ll need to get AAMA certified. The AAMA certification tells employers that you possess exceptionally broad, thorough knowledge of the field, and that you care enough about your profession to attain that knowledge. Hiring managers know that AAMA-certified candidates participate in continuing-education workshops, read authoritative texts, and network with other medical assistants. The healthcare field is continually changing and your AAMA certification tells employers that you’re "up to speed" on those changes.
Get an Externship
A medical-assistant externship provides practical on the job training—usually about 160 hours of shadowing a working M.A.—that will give you an idea of the day-to-day work of professionals in your field. To make sure you get into an externship, start talking with other medical assistants or medical offices to find a compatible work environment. If possible, try to get an externship that offers an extension, which can lead to you continuing on as an associate. "Many, many students are hired at their externship sites just by showing they have a good attitude, are eager to learn and get along well with the existing staff," says Mary C. Dyer, a certified medical assistant-specialization in administration (CMA-A) and president of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). If you’re not hired where you externed, but you leave a good impression, your externship colleagues can be great references when you apply for other jobs.
Add Skillsets and Network
If you “hit the wall” and can't find a job, take a few additional courses—like medical coding—to make yourself more marketable. And network with working M.A.'s at monthly meetings of your local AAMA chapter to learn of any job openings.
Landing that first job as a medical assistant won’t be easy, but if you’re credentialed, connected by networking, and prepared for the interview, the odds will be in your favor.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net