Medical Certifications

The majority of medical careers and employers require certification before you can commence employment. Certification indicates that you have a certain level of competence with regard to your chosen medical career. In contrast, licensure refers to the state of legally being able to work or practice in a medical career. A medical certification is typically achieved through the passing of an examination specific to your chosen medical career. Depending on your chosen concentration, the certification process can take weeks, months, or years. It can also be an expensive endeavor. Most certifications are national and will allow you to work throughout the United States. Medical certification demonstrates a high level of commitment to your medical career and can give you an edge in a highly competitive job market. Other advantages of certification include higher pay, career advancement, and job security.

Prepare for Certification Tests

Regardless of your choice of medical careers, you will most likely have to prepare for and pass a medical certification examination. The process usually begins with registration and scheduling of the certification examination shortly after completion of your respective medical career program. Studying for your particular certification examination is a focused and time-consuming effort. Review of materials should begin months before the scheduled examination date. Preparation for your particular examination should be varied and can take many forms. Some pay for specialized examination preparation courses. Others undertake a self-study approach. Regardless of your strategy, examination preparation should utilize practice exams, study guides, workbooks and handbooks, and outlines of pertinent material.

Types of Certifications

The following is a sampling of medical careers requiring certification:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training and certification can take as little as three months. CNAs are typically supervised by a Registered Nurse (RN) and perform routine tasks such as checking vital signs, changing bed linens, and setting up medical equipment. They are typically employed at hospitals and nursing homes. The salary range is $24,000 to $34,000.
  • Medical technician training and certification usually require at least an associate's degree. Medical technicians are typically responsible for the repair and calibration of biomedical equipment such as EKG machines, weight scales, defibrillators, ventilators, and blood pressure machines. They are typically employed at hospitals and clinics. The salary range is $34,000 to $62,000.
  • X-ray technician, also referred to as radiologic technician, training and certification usually requires at least an associate's degree. X-ray technicians prepare patients and operate X-ray machinery as specified by a physician. They are typically employed at imaging centers, hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices. The salary range is $32,000 to $55,000.
  • Clinical laboratory technician training and certification usually requires at least an associate's degree. Clinical laboratory technicians carry out analysis of urine, blood, stool, and other samples to aid physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. They are typically employed at clinical laboratories, hospitals, and doctors' offices. The salary range is $45,000 to $63,000.
  • Dental assistant training and certification can take as little as four to six months. Dental assistant tasks are varied and can include gathering patient information, setting up dental equipment, assisting with oral surgery, taking dental X-rays, and obtaining dental impressions. They are typically employed at dental clinics and offices. The salary range is $25,000 to $39,000.
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), also known as paramedic, training and certification require at least a high school diploma. EMTs respond to emergency calls and provide medical care at the scene and en route to the hospital. They are typically employed at ambulance services, fire departments, and police departments. The salary range is $23,000 to $40,000.
  • Health services management training and certification usually require at least an associate's degree. Health services managers coordinate and supervise delivery of services at health care facilities, making sure these facilities run efficiently. They are typically employed at hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices. The salary can range into six figures for exceptionally talented graduates.
  • Medical assistant training and certification can be completed in one to two years, culminating in a diploma, certificate, or associate's degree. Medical assistant duties vary widely and may include obtaining vital signs, assisting physicians with minor surgeries, collecting laboratory specimens, filing medical records, and scheduling patient appointments. They are typically employed at hospitals and doctors' offices. The median medical assistant salary is $30,000.
  • Pharmacy technician training and certification require at least a high school diploma and can be completed in as little as six months. Pharmacy technicians take prescriptions, count pills, label bottles, and verify the correctness of prescriptions. They are typically employed at pharmacies or hospitals. The salary range is $26,000 to $39,000.
  • Phlebotomy training and certification can be completed in as little as a year. Phlebotomists are charged with collecting blood samples from patients. They are typically employed at laboratories, hospitals, blood donation centers, and doctors' offices. The salary range is $24,000 to $35,000.
  • Other medical careers that require certification include physical therapy, massage therapy certification, medical transcription, medical billing and coding, surgical technology, EKG technician, cardiovascular technology, and health care information technology.

Last Updated: 05/21/2014