How to Become a Medical Assistant in California

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With people flocking to California due to the sunny and perfect year-round weather, the need for medical assistants has never been higher than now.

By becoming a medical assistant in California, you get to enter the medical field while giving back to those in your community.

If you have an ardent desire to help others, excellent communication skills, and are detail-oriented, then you should consider becoming a medical assistant in California.

Before jumping into the field, it is important to understand the available training programs and frequent questions. Keep reading to learn more!

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Get information on Medical Assistant programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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5 Medical Assistant Schools in California

Given the massive population of California, there are numerous medical assistant schools, with some of the best.

American Career College

American Career College Logo

With a primary focus on preparing students for a successful career, the American Career College medical assistant program boasts experienced faculty that maximizes the student learning experience.

Within this nine-month program, students gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed as entry-level medical assistants.

Students begin their educational journey with lectures and coursework and end the program with a 200-hour externship at a local healthcare facility.

The total cost for this program is $20,108.

Carrington College

Carrington College Logo

Carrington College has multiple locations across California, allowing students from various areas of the state to be close to a program.

Students entering the program can opt for a certificate or associate degree in medical assisting.

Both programs focus on the clinical and administrative aspects of being a medical assistant, but the associate curriculum is much more comprehensive than the certificate.

All skills learned in either option are enhanced by the required 180-hour externship, which is completed at a local healthcare facility.

The certificate program takes nine months to complete, while the associate degree takes two years, not including the externship for both.

The cost for a certificate is $16,600 and the cost for an associate degree is $20,000.

Chabot College

Chabot College Logo

Founded in 1961, the medical assistant program from Chabot College offers employment-ready training to students with an emphasis on hands-on learning to improve job placement post-graduation.

The program is 35 weeks and trains students for entry-to-mid-level medical positions.

Once the curriculum is completed, students will receive a certificate and can effectively perform clinical and administrative functions necessary for the workplace.

Graduates are eligible for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam.

Long Beach City CollegeLong Beach City College Logo

With a growing student population, Long Beach City College offers educational programs that match students’ career goals.

Within this program, you can choose a certificate course with a specialty in clinical or administrative duties.

During the program’s one-year requirement, you will either focus on clinical procedures and medical terminology, or the legal aspects of healthcare, insurance billing, computer competency, and accounting.

Long Beach City College also offers an associate degree that combines both specialties.

San Joaquin Valley College

San Joaquin Valley College Logo

Considered the top medical assistant school in California, San Joaquin Valley College has been servicing students for 40 years.

Currently, all students are nurtured throughout the program through experiential learning opportunities, interview preparation, placement assistance, and individual tutoring if necessary.

The certificate program takes nine months and prepares students for their careers through lectures and clinical work.

Students are also required to complete a four-hour externship at a local medical facility after the coursework has been completed.

The entire program costs $17,800.

Medical Assistant Schools in California – Summary Table

Top 5 Schools in California

School NameAddress
American Career College4021 Rosewood Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Carrington College8909 Folsom Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95826
Chabot College25555 Hesperian Blvd, Hayward, CA 94545
Long Beach City CollegeE Carson St, Long Beach, CA 90808
San Joaquin Valley College9331 Mariposa Rd, Hesperia, CA 92344


The median U.S. salary is $37,900 with a range from $32,200 to $43,700.

The median salary in California is much higher at $42,900, with a range between $36,500 to $49,400.

Annual Salary Range:

Average Salary of Medical Assistants in California

City NameSalary
Los Angeles$42,996
San Diego$41,026
San Jose$47,711
San Francisco$47,521
Long Beach$42,388
Santa Ana$42,426
* Salary information last updated 2024

Regional Salary in California

RegionEmployedAvg. Annual SalaryAvg. Hourly PayTop 10% Annual SalaryBottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA2,670$40,870$19.65$58,130$31,590
Chico, CA520$43,030$20.69$56,160$34,440
El Centro, CA480$37,590$18.07$46,180$32,740
Fresno, CA3,190$43,990$21.15$66,200$33,730
Hanford-Corcoran, CA370$40,640$19.54$47,740$34,550
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA36,770$43,880$21.1$59,090$35,370
Madera, CA290$39,510$19$46,900$31,830
Merced, CA550$37,120$17.84$44,060$31,200
Modesto, CA1,490$46,680$22.44$65,130$33,410
Napa, CA380$54,870$26.38$66,270$39,360
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA1,700$44,770$21.52$59,690$36,030
Redding, CA750$43,570$20.95$65,440$34,460
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA10,380$41,020$19.72$58,940$30,980
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA7,470$56,450$27.14$74,720$37,190
Salinas, CA1,010$44,000$21.16$55,360$36,270
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA8,810$44,960$21.62$61,550$36,690
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA14,500$58,710$28.23$76,050$42,900
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA6,420$55,980$26.91$73,630$38,890
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA750$45,150$21.71$59,370$35,530
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA870$49,010$23.56$65,830$37,360
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA1,150$44,580$21.43$61,340$35,620
Santa Rosa, CA1,630$55,690$26.77$73,250$38,490
Stockton-Lodi, CA1,590$47,680$22.92$66,630$34,390
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA1,160$62,050$29.83$75,790$37,760
Visalia-Porterville, CA1,200$43,300$20.82$58,220$34,740
Yuba City, CA370$43,730$21.03$50,840$35,170
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Medical Assistants, OCC Code 31-9092, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can a California medical assistant program help me achieve my career goals?

Medical assistants wear many hats in the healthcare field, ranging from clinical to administrative responsibilities.

Within medical assistant training programs, you will learn how to check in patients, assist physicians with examinations, assess patients’ vital signs, perform minor procedures like drawing blood or administering injections and prepare lab samples.

Most medical assistant programs have a specific number of hours dedicated to lectures and clinical work, so you are a more well-rounded graduate.

How long is the typical medical assistant program and its cost in California?

While each program varies based on the school and curriculum, the average length is 8-18 months for a certificate or diploma and costs $2,200 – $41,800, with most programs in the middle of that range.

If you are seeking an associate degree, then the program length is two years and the cost ranges from $8,000 – $67,600.

Are medical assistants required to be certified in California? 

Medical assistants are not required to be certified or licensed by the state.

However, most employers require medical assistants to be certified by passing the CMA exam.

This is mostly due to meeting the requirements of the employer’s malpractice insurance provider.

What does California define as administering medication?

One of the primary roles of a medical assistant is to administer medication.

The Medical Board of California defines this as the direct application of medicine through pre-measured medications, inhalation, ingestion, or simple injections.

Can medical assistants call medicinal refills into a pharmacy?

Yes, a medical assistant can call refills into a pharmacy, under the direct supervision of the on-site doctor.

The refills must be exact and have no dosage level changes.

Also, the refill must be documented on the patient’s medical chart.

However, medical assistants cannot call in new or changed prescriptions according to California state law.

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