Entry-level jobs are supposed to be, well, entry-level. One might assume the only requirement for an entry-level job is applying. Once upon a time that may have been the case, but any career changer or recent graduate may tell you the entry-level job market has changed. Employers usually require experience even for entry-level positions¹.
So how are you supposed to enter a field if even the “entry-level” positions available require experience? The first step is narrowing down the field and type of entry-level position you want.
If you’re reading this article you are likely already interested in becoming a medical assistant. If you’re trying to enter the field but keep getting hung up on the “experience” qualification you’ve reached the right article. Here we’ll go over how to build up your qualifications so you can pursue the entry-level medical assistant jobs you’ve been after.
* The topics we’ll focus on are as follows:
- Hard Skills
- Soft Skills
- Have a professional attitude
Hard Skills - Clinical and Administrative Skills for Medical Assistants
“Hard skills” is the term that defines skills that can be taught². These skills can be practiced and improved over time through experience and/or education.
In the past, hard skills were usually learned on the job especially in entry-level positions. Nowadays most hard skills are learned in schools or some sort of training. Entry-level positions expect you to already have some of the hard skills needed for the position when you apply.
Some of the hard skills required for medical assistants (or MAs for short) are:
- Being able to measure a patient’s vital signs and take a health history
- Using medical equipment
- Interpersonal skills
- Administrative Skills
- Basic Medical Terminology and Knowledge
- Computer Skills
- Procedural Knowledge such as Phlebotomy, First Aid, and administering injections.
To ensure you are well-positioned to go after entry-level medical assistant jobs, it can be advantageous to have learned these hard skills in advance and have them on your resume when applying.
You may have noticed you have some of these hard skills without any formal training.
The requirements for medical assistants vary from state to state and employer to employer. This means you could get a job as a medical assistant without formal education and certification in the field. However, generally speaking, experience and education are preferred among employers. A candidate with a strong set of hard skills and certification to back it up looks better than a candidate without these assets.
There are several training programs to help you prepare for a certification exam. If you’re from Michigan, career colleges like Dorsey College offer a medical assistant program. Dorsey College will pay the cost one time for graduates to challenge a certification exam (as selected by Dorsey College) upon completion of the program and the graduate meeting the program requirements.
If you're having a hard time landing an entry-level MA position without certification, consider getting certified. Certification as a Medical Assistant can help open doors and give you a head start on your new career.
Unlike hard skills, soft skills aren’t taught. Instead, soft skills are sometimes viewed as subjective. Often, they are personality traits. Sometimes they are called “people skills”.
Here are some soft skills you’ll want to include on your resume when applying for entry-level MA positions:
- Stress Management
- Work Ethic
These five skills are essential for an MA and can look good on an MA resume. Why? Because they’re from a blog post written by and for medical assistant recruiters³.
All good candidates should possess the above qualities. Be prepared to prove your soft skills during the interview. Questions that start with “Recall a time when” or “how did that make you feel?” are assessing soft skills.
Building a network from scratch is a challenge. If you’re looking for entry-level MA positions, there is a chance you may not have a huge network in the medical field.
This issue reveals one of the biggest perks of attending a MA training program. If you go to school for training, you’ll meet educators, advisors and fellow students⁴. All these types of people help you to build a network before you have any career connections. The easiest way to build a network from nothing is to attend a training program and to talk to people you interact with in school. Use your schooling to your full advantage. Some training programs also include an externship. This is another great place where you can build your professional network.
LinkedIn is of course a great way to connect with past coworkers, educators and mentors. Even if you chose to forgo attending a training program, joining LinkedIn can help you network. It is also a great place to read up on and practice professionalism.
The easiest way to stand out in entry level applications is having a professional attitude. Inexperience can be tackled and overcome. To many employers, an unprofessional attitude cannot.
When asked about the importance of professionalism 97.5% of employers responded that it was absolutely essential for new hires⁵.
A professional attitude comes from a variety of effective work habits. Being focused, productive and taking initiative are some examples. Being resilient and self-aware are some others. Learning to reflect and control your emotions through self-reflection can lead to more professional behavior. For example, if you are self-aware, chances are good, you’ll communicate better.
Hard work, focus, stability and a mindset that is both aware and in-tune can help you strengthen your professionalism.
Educational programs such as a medical assistant diploma program can help you with developing professional traits. A medical assistant diploma program can also provide you with resources that can help you develop and enhance your professionalism. Mock interviews for example, can help you see how you come across to employers. From there, you can better understand and improve upon your professional image and attitude.
- “Why Do Some Entry-Level Jobs Require Experience? Entry-Level Job Faqs Answered.” Indeed Career Guide, Indeed Editorial Team, 22 Feb. 2021, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/why-do-entry-level-jobs-require-experience.
- Kagan, Julia. “Why Hard Skills Matter.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 27 Sept. 2021, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/hard-skills.asp.
- “Five Soft Skills to Look for When Hiring a Medical Assistant: KNF&T Staffing Resources.” KNF&T Staffing Resources | Finding the Right Fit Since 1983, 16 July 2020, https://www.knft.com/five-soft-skills-to-look-for-when-hiring-a-medical-assistant/
- Moser, Leslie. “How to Build a Professional Network from Scratch.” The Muse, The Muse, 19 June 2020, https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-build-a-helpful-and-wellconnected-professional-network-from-scratch.
- “Professionalism.” Career and Professional Development | Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech, 3 Aug. 2015, https://career.vt.edu/develop/professionalism.html.