Medical Assistant Careers in California

California Medical Assistant Career

About A California Medical Assistant Career

Medical assistants are unlicensed individuals performing minimally invasive support services for a licensed physician, surgeon, podiatrist, or other health practitioner. The profession consists of a combination of administrative office work such as filing insurance forms as well as hands-on tasks such as drawing blood or measuring vital signs.

A medical assistant will also prepare the treatment room and interview the patient prior to a doctor’s examination. The job position requires a high school diploma and possibly a medical assistant certificate. A medical assistant will typically report to a supervisor or manager within their designated field.


There are two agencies that are recognized by the United States Department of Education that accredit training programs in the field of medical assisting: Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accredited Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).  However, graduation from an accredited program is not required for the profession.

Neither the federal government nor the majority of US states requires MA’s to have completed a formal program. Rather, The Medical Board of California requires that a medical assistant receive supervised training before performing certain clinical tasks such as injections and drawing blood.

Furthermore, some employers within the state will require an MA to become certified in California. The Medical Board of California recognizes three types of certifications for medical assisting: the national CMA certificate through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), the RMA certificate through American Medical Technologists (AMT), and the California Certified Medical Assistant (CCMA) credential.

Typically, Northern Californians obtain the CCMA established by the California Medical Assistants Association (CMAA) while Southern Californians become certified through the AAMA.

Job Duties within the State

Within the state of California, medical assistants are allowed to perform basic administrative tasks and medical procedures. Medical assistants in California must have the appropriate training and supervision to perform medical tasks. Medical assistants are prohibited from assessing patient symptoms or performing invasive procedures.


The median hourly wage for medical assistants in California is $12.61, with a median annual salary of $27,120¹.  Certified medical assistants earn, on average, approximately 5-10% more than uncertified MA’s. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2012 national median pay for medical assistants was $29,370 annually and $14.12 per hour.

Growth of the Profession in state/nationwide

As of 2000, medical assistants held around 50,500 jobs in the state of California². According to the Census Bureau, medical assistants are estimated to hold 604,205 positions nationwide.

Due to the rapidly expanding technological advances within the field of medicine, the health services industry continues to grow. Thus, employment growth for medical assistants is driven by the increased demand for healthcare assistant positions nationwide.

For instance, the 2002-2012 projections covering U.S. occupations calculate that medical assistants will have one of the fastest job growth rates, reaching a 60% growth. At year 2010, the medical assistant occupation had one of the largest number of job openings within the state of California.³

Employment growth, both nationally and statewide, is determined by the number of health care facilities, group practices, and clinics that need a high number of support personnel, particularly medical assistants, who contribute both administrative and clinical tasks.

Demand for the Profession with State

Although there is a significant demand for the medial assisting profession within California, a number of counties in the state have reported difficulty in recruiting entry-level MA’s. As more competing job opportunities become available in a stronger economy, difficulty in recruiting becomes more acute, especially in rural California counties.

Turnover rates

There are reportedly high turnover rates among MA’s in the health care world. Staff turnover within this field is associated with the individual’s concern for lack of professional advancement and low wages.4

Furthermore, the current regulation for medical assistants at the state and federal level is very minimal, meaning that specific employers set the standard for a medical assistant. Thus, care organizations often develop their own standards for hiring and retaining their MA’s which may fluctuate.

Future job opportunities

Advancement opportunities for medical assistants generally occur within the health care field. Related occupations such as a nurse or physician’s assistant require more formal training because these individuals perform a wider variety of clinical tasks, however, these occupations are within the reach of a certified MA. Medical assistants may also pursue front office jobs such as medical billers, coders, or administrators.

¹ Occupational employment survey of employers (2002).
² Occupational employment survey of employers (2002).
³ Employment Development Department.
4 Qualitative study on medical assistants in Northern California, Taché (2004).




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