The medical assistant career is one of the fastest growing fields. Why is this? Because the health care industry as a whole is growing to meet the health care needs of an aging baby boomer population. In addition, the average life span of the population is increasing thanks to continuing advancements in medicine and medical technology. As a result, the job vacancies for medical assistants are growing and will continue to do so over the next decade.
The Job Description Of The Medical Assistant
Medical assistants perform both clinical and administrative work. The administrative side of the job may include patient registrations, appointment scheduling, and billing and is usually performed in an office setting. Their clinical work may include preparing patients for examinations, medical supply management, and helping nurses and physicians perform examinations, procedures, and taking medical histories. Other responsibilities might include taking patient vital signs, sterilizing medical instruments, and interviewing patients.
In large medical centers, medical assistants often specialize in either clinical tasks or in administrative tasks. Small physician offices will require the medical assistant to do both. Other work settings for clinical work include hospital outpatient clinics and community-based clinics.
Becoming A Medical Assistant
While many states do not require certification, getting one will increase your job prospects and earning potential. Medical assistant training programs vary in length from eight months to two years. Some programs involve hands-on training in a workplace setting as part of an externship where the student performs the daily routines of a medical assistant while under close supervision. An externship is also an opportunity to get your foot in the door and may lead to employment. Once your training is completed, you will have to take and pass the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) exam.
The Medical Assistant’s Salary
According to payscale.com, a medical assistant’s salary ranges between $19,948 and $41,131 per year. How much you earn will depend on many factors such as whether you are certified, your experience, your location, your employer, and your specific skills. The national average is $28,000 per year. Entry level medical assistants can expect to be paid 8% below the national average while the mid-career individual will exceed the national average by 5%. However, those with the highest experience levels can expect to exceed this average by as much as 18%.
Large metropolitan areas generally but not always pay the most because of their higher cost of living. Areas that exceed the national average include Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Boston, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Diego, and Phoenix. The highest wages are paid by insurance companies and personal care services while physicians’ offices and hospitals provide the most jobs.
Skills that increase medical assistant salary levels include internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, procedures, electronic medical records, triage, patient education, pediatrics, phlebotomy, and scheduling.
Common Medical Assistant Career Paths
Because the work of medical assistants encompass many skills and activities, their career paths can take many directions. Which path you take will depend on your interests and circumstances. Medical assistants may become registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, practice assistants, office managers, and medical billers.
You may find yourself working in physician offices, specialty offices, government agencies, rehab clinics, outpatient centers, hospitals, educational services, urgent care centers, nursing homes, medical supply businesses, emergency service organizations, home health agencies, laboratories, insurance providers, and pharmaceutical companies.
If a medical assistant career interests you, the best way to start is getting trained in an accredited program. As mentioned previously, these programs may take between just under a year to two years. After passing the certification exam, you can then become a part of a fast growing industry with lots of opportunity and security. For more information on getting started, contact us today.