How to Gain Experience as a New Medical Assistant

Medical Assistant sitting with an elderly female patient on couch in an assisted living facility, checking her blood pressure. MEDIjobs

Recently graduated with your M.A. and wondering how you can gain the experience you need to land your dream career as a new Medical Assistant? If you’re ready to start, but you need a little direction, you’ve come to the right article. 

Navigating your way through starting a new career in a new industry is hard enough, so we’ve outlined a few tips and tricks to help catapult you into the dream position you were born for. 

Reputable Programs 

One thing that schools don’t tell you is that you are judged on where you graduate from when you don’t have the experience prior to your certification. Regional Occupational programs are great, and they suffice depending on where you plan on working, but they won’t be noteworthy on your resume. Additionally, one thing to also consider is not getting into debt over going to a prestigious school. Private colleges such as Concorde are costly and usually frowned upon by hiring managers. The best route? Go through your community college, especially if you plan on attending the same school to complete your R.N. or similar. 

Volunteer 

One of the most uncommon forms of getting your foot in the door at your dream job as a Medical Assistant is by volunteering. It’s nearly impossible to get a volunteer position at a doctor’s office, but most physicians are associated with hospitals. Volunteer at the hospital in your area for a way to gain experience and also connect with people that would be happy to write recommendation letters. Such letters will now come from a trusted source such as an R.N. the physician is familiar with. Some of these volunteer programs are known as Health Scholar Volunteer Programs. The application process can be intimidating, but don’t let that stop you. The knowledge, connections, and career opportunities can be priceless. 

Externships 

An externship can be a great way to get hands-on experience without having to volunteer your time. The best way to find externship opportunities can be by reaching out directly to local physician practices, clinics, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities or assisted living centers. A 6-month externship is suggested to increase your chances of getting hired. During the Externship, you’ll get to work alongside a skilled M.A., much like your clinicals, but unline clinicals, your Externship counts as work experience. The longer you do the Externship, the better it looks on your resume, much like holding a job for a longer period of time.  

Resume

One of the most frustrating things hiring managers see is when an applicant doesn’t take the time to create a professional-looking resume and cover letter. Or worse, someone who doesn’t bother attaching it to their application in the first place. In your cover letter, if you don’t have the experience, talk about things that relate to the medical field that you do have experience with. Talk about how you’ve loved caring for people since you can remember, your babysitting experience, how you’ve worked as a team at your past job, how you’re used to working long shifts on your feet or how you’ve handled hard clients, patients or customers in the past. Looking to score major bonus points? 

Mention the following: 
  • Detail Oriented 
  • Ability to Multitask
  • Team-Oriented 
  • Great Problem Solver 
  • Adaptable 
  • Can Stay Calm in Stressful Situations 
  • Active Listener 
  • Familiarity with medical terminology
  • Fast Learner 
  • Excellent communication skills
Mention past experience: 
  • Documentation and information record-keeping
  • Clerical work, receptionist or administrative assistant
  • Internships or similar at a doctor’s office, hospital, clinic or skilled nursing facility. 
  • Involvement in the American Association of Medical Assistants (or better yet, get AAMA certified!)
  • Knowledge of electronic health record systems such as EPIC
  • Medical billing and coding
  • Volunteer work, especially if healthcare-related.

The experience you list might not be direct experience, but it allows hiring managers to understand your skills and personality better. Want bonus points? Include your 17 Personalities results. Additionally, your resume itself should be professionally created. Invest in yourself by investing in someone to review your resume and suggest changes. Most MA programs will assist you in this process. Also, don’t forget the standard rule-of-thumb, keep it to one page. 

Evaluations 

If you’ve decided to volunteer or are able to secure an externship, make sure you get your evaluation completed. Evaluations are used to determine the student’s abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Therefore volunteering isn’t a free ride; this is your time to shine and show your future employer what you’re made of. Evaluations are sometimes done halfway through your agreed volunteer time or Externship, so make sure you’re always on time, you know what you’re doing, and that you don’t need additional assistance. Dream jobs don’t hire people that need hand-holding; you’ll need to be confident and excel in your role. Sometimes this means practicing at home well after graduating, or reading and re-reading old class notes. 

Field of Experience 

An additional thing that should be considered when applying for a Medical Assistant position is what type of Medical Assistant you wish to be and where you plan on taking your career in the future. If you’re looking to work in a hospital, you may want to only apply for hospital positions, want to work in pediatrics? Consider applying for positions at pediatrician offices. Much like needing experience as an M.A. to get a great M.A. job, you’ll also need experience at the respective departments or locations to secure a job there down the road. Most Medical Assistants that start out in Skilled Nursing facilities (and never secure externships or volunteer work at hospitals), find it difficult to secure a future hospital position.

Remember, the more places you apply isn’t always the best tactic. Make sure to be strategic and keep the above notes in mind. You might not secure your dream job off the bat, but you’ll be taking a step in the right direction. 

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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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