Deciding on a career is one of the bigger decisions in life, so if you’re thinking that you want to become a medical assistant, you’ll want to do quite a bit of research before you make a decision. While you want to get as in-depth as you can about the career, here’s an overview.
What is a medical assistant?
If you become a medical assistant, you can expect to be involved in both administrative and clinical duties. While actual job descriptions will vary depending on the type of medical office you work at and which state you live in, you’ll have a wide variety of tasks. For instance, you might be in charge of answering the phone, updating medical records, billing patients and insurance agencies, taking blood samples, handing out medications, and explaining the doctor’s instructions to patients. Basically, you need to learn how to be a jack-of-all-trades so you can help wherever you’re needed each day.
What kind of education will I need?
Most medical assistants start their career with a one-year post-secondary certificate. Many community colleges offer a suitable program at a reasonable cost, but if you don’t foresee yourself going back to school in the near future, some employers are willing to consider high school graduates and train them once they’re hired. A certificate is definitely helpful, but it’s not absolutely required. If you do decide to go back to school, you should also consider getting a CMA certificate. Accredited by the American Association of Medical Assistants, this certificate will help tremendously in your job search. Certified medical assistants are in great demand.
How much experience do I need?
Even though medical assistants have many responsibilities, it’s still considered an entry-level job. This is actually a good thing, though, because if you want to become a medical assistant, you won’t need to spend years working at a lower-level job to qualify for a career in this field. Instead, you can get started much sooner.
What’s the job outlook like?
There’s currently a high demand for medical assistants, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. The older a person is, the more likely he or she is to seek preventative care, and the more patients there are visiting the doctor’s office, the greater the need for medical assistants. Due to the aging baby-boom population, the job outlook for medical assistants is expected to grow much faster than other occupations. If you like statistics, then consider that the employment of medical assistants is supposed to increase 29 percent within ten years.
How much will I get paid?
This is another question that depends on where you live and work, but for a job that doesn’t require a four-year degree, it pays pretty well. An average medical assistant will make around $30,000 per year, or a little over $14 per hour. Remember, though, that salaries vary. If you live in an urban area with a high cost of living, you’ll probably make more than that, but if you live in a town of under 1,000 in the Midwest, don’t expect to make as much as your friends in San Francisco or New York.
What about the hours?
If you want a full-time position, you’ll probably be able to find one, and if you start off as part-time, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to become a full-time employee after a few months. Make sure to look for a job that fits your needs, though. Regular physician’s offices are usually open during normal business hours, but hospitals and emergency rooms never sleep. If you accept a job in a facility that has overnight patients, expect to have to work some weekends, night shifts, and holidays. Overtime isn’t exactly a rare occurrence, either.
Where can I go from here?
What if you get a job and want to advance your career? What if you want a job change? The good thing about being a medical assistant is that you are trained in two areas. If you decide you like doing the paperwork more than interacting directly with patients, you’ll have the experience needed to get a job as an administrative assistant or another office-type position. On the other hand, if you want more contact with people, you can become a nursing assistant and work on becoming a regular nurse once you get some more experience and education.
Becoming a medical assistant is a smart choice. The demand is there, plus you don’t have to get into the debt associated with four-year universities. The job pays well, and if you ever decide you want to do something else with your life and change jobs, you’ll be trained in both administrative and clinical duties.