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Though formal education is not required for medical assistants, many employers prefer it – and that might be due to the fact that higher education for the job also includes vital hands-on training. Medical assistant education and training together is considered important for a variety of reasons:

The healthcare field changes rapidly, offering new and innovative techniques and treatments, and medical assistants must be right on top of what is best for their patients and for the employer as well.

Formal education cannot teach some important aspects of medical assisting, such as what to listen for when taking a blood pressure reading or how to properly assess a patient’s medical history.

According to O*Net Online, medical assistants fall into Job Zone 3, which means that medium preparation is needed. This means that employees might need one or two years of medical assistant training to begin work and will also receive on-the-job training during this time.

Many of the tools used in the job require hands-on work in order to become familiar with them. These might include hypodermic needles, blood pressure cuffs, nebulizers, otoscope sets and more. Technologies used also require hands-on training; these might include accounting and medical billing software, scheduling software, electronic medical records and the like.

A survey of medical assistants found that 84 percent are in constant contact with others, 83 percent have daily telephone conversations, 76 percent have face-to-face discussions with team members, and 66 percent work in very close proximity with others (as you might expect from taking vital signs). This close contact requires strong interpersonal and communication skills, some of which can only be learned over time and exposure to the office atmosphere.