Medical assistants work in various healthcare settings, including but not limited to hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices. In addition to performing administrative tasks such as answering phones and scheduling appointments, they assist in examinations and treatments for patients. A medical assistant degree from an accredited program is required for most positions. Some states require licensure; check with your state’s licensing board for more information. Also, you can find information on the MedAssistantEdu website to provide you with better clarity.
Before enrolling in a medical assistant program, students should evaluate their strengths and weaknesses to determine whether they will be best suited for clinical or administrative work. Students without any medical background are encouraged to pursue the administrative track. However, it’s not uncommon for individuals with essential healthcare experience to follow the clinical track. Whether you’re in school to become a certified medical assistant or are looking for an entry-level position, remember that patient care skills are in demand.
Medical Assistant Education Requirements
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most employers require an associate degree, which can be earned in about 1 year. However, some employers allow medical assistants to complete a program with less than an associate degree or work toward a bachelor’s degree in the field of healthcare management.
The BLS also reports that most medical assistant programs can be completed within 9 months to 2 years and include coursework similar to the following:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Pharmacology and drug classes
- Medical law and ethics (including HIPAA)
- Customer service and communication skills in a medical setting
Upon graduation, some schools require students to complete state licensing requirements for medical assistants. This includes passing the CMA (AAMA-Certified Medical Assistant) certification exam administered by the AAMA (American Association of Medical Assistants).
Medical Assistant Salary Information
With the projected increase in demand for medical assistants, especially those with experience or with an associate degree earned from a program accredited by the CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs), there’s good news for job seekers: medical assistant salaries are expected to rise in most industries.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most employers offer lucrative benefits, including health insurance, retirement plans and paid time off. The BLS also reports that these positions are often entry-level jobs with room for advancement. Here is a list of the top-paying industries for medical assistants:
- Physician’s offices
- Community and social service agencies
- Home healthcare services and outpatient care centres
The average salary range in these industries ranges from $23,000 to $32,000 annually. However, salaries can vary greatly depending on where you live, your level of experience, and the specific duties associated with a medical assistant position. For example, in 2013, most medical assistants earned between $25,000 and $30,000 a year. However, in New York City or Chicago, some earned as much as $40,000 a year.
Medical Assistant Certifications
According to the BLS, medical assistants are expected to keep pace with job growth by earning professional certifications. The most common certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Current medical assistants can prepare for this exam by taking courses at a local college or technical school, such as the Medical Assisting program at Wilbur Wright College.
Other examples of medical assistant certifications include:
- Phlebotomy certification (offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification)
- CPR and first aid certification (nationally recognized certification required by many employers)
- Certified radiology medical assistant certification (offered by the ARMA – American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography)
Job Requirements for Medical Assistants
To gain an edge in the job market and become a more attractive candidate for hiring managers, it’s important to be well-rounded. Some medical assistant positions require candidates to have experience as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).
In addition, many employers seek out candidates who’ve completed courses within their local community or technical college.
Here are some other common prerequisites for this position:
- High school diploma or GED (some employers may prefer candidates who have completed an associate’s degree)
- HIPAA certification (ensures compliance with federal patient privacy laws)
- Customer service experience in a medical office setting is preferred but not required
- CPR certification (AHA – American Heart Association)
Medical Assistant Skills Summary
According to the BLS, medical assistants are expected to be detail-oriented team players who can communicate effectively with patients. It’s also important for medical assistants to have strong computer skills and knowledge about office equipment, including printers, copiers, and fax machines.
The BLS reports that medical assistants are expected to complete routine administrative tasks, including scheduling appointments, performing general accounting functions, and preparing insurance forms. Medical assistants are also expected to perform clinical duties, including taking patient histories, recording vital signs, and updating medical records.