Medical assistants perform a number of very important functions inside a medical clinic. If you’re thinking about becoming a medical assistant, here are some things you need to know about the occupation.
No formal education is required in order to become a medical assistant, as this profession does not require licensing. Even so, many medical assistants nonetheless elect to earn an Associate’s degree that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Earning an accredited degree will allow you to sit for the certifying exam offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Passing this exam can prove very useful when it comes to finding a job, particularly if you have no previous work experience as a medical assistant.
Duties and Responsibilities
As a medical assistant, you will perform a wide range of duties. You may act as an administrative assistant in completing tasks such as:
- Answering the telephone
- Bookkeeping and payroll functions
- Scheduling appointments
- Drafting official correspondence
- Performing medical billing and coding functions
- Maintaining medical charts
You may also be directly involved in patient care by:
- Taking a patient’s vital signs
- Assisting with physical examinations
- Collecting samples of blood or urine
- Discussing a doctor’s instructions with the patient
- Bandaging wounds
- Performing routine laboratory tests
- Recording symptoms on a medical chart
There could also be a few other miscellaneous duties required, including:
- Calling in prescriptions to a pharmacy
- Making patient appointments for testing and laboratory work
- Transcribing physician’s notes
- Ordering and restocking medical or office supplies
- Sterilizing medical equipment
Characteristics of Medical Assistants
The fact that you will perform a wide range of functions means you must be versatile and able to maintain flexibility throughout your work day. Other important qualities you should possess in order to be successful include:
- An ability to multitask
- Being able to work well under pressure
- Good verbal and written communications skills
- Exceptional organizational and time management skills
- An ability to sympathize with the patient
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the demand for medical assistants will increase by 29% by the year 2022, which is much faster than average for all occupations. The demand is expected to come as Baby Boomers age and subsequently require more medical services.
The median annual salary for a medical assistant was $29,370 per year in 2012, which amounts to an hourly wage of around $14.12 per hour. Individuals at the lower end of the pay scale may make around $21,540 annually, while those at the high end may earn as much as $42,760. Those employed in the District of Columbia, Alaska, Massachusetts, Washington and Connecticut earn more than medical assistants in any other state.
Medical assistants who work in scientific research laboratories tend to make the most money, earning on average $36,670 annually. Other industries where you can expect to earn above the median annual salary are personal care services, insurance companies, and colleges and other professional schools.
Where do Medical Assistants Work?
Most medical assistants are employed in doctor’s offices; however, they may also be found in:
- Outpatient care centers
- General medical and surgical hospitals
- Long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living centers
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories
- Insurance companies
- Personal care services such as home health care agencies
As you can see, medical assistants play a very important role in the success of any medical practice. If you believe a career as a medical assistant is the right choice for you, please feel free to contact us for more information on how to get started.