Medical Assistant

Discover the path to a rewarding career as a medical assistant. From education to certification and gaining valuable experience, learn the steps to kickstart your journey.
Medical Assistant
Medical assistant careers are an increasingly popular option for those looking to enter the healthcare field. They play a vital role in ensuring that patients receive high-quality care quickly and efficiently by performing tasks such as scheduling appointments, taking vital signs, preparing lab specimens, recording patient information into electronic health records (EHRs), and assisting physicians with minor procedures.

What Is a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant is a healthcare professional who performs both clinical and administrative tasks in a healthcare setting, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices. Medical assistants may work with patients by taking vital signs, administering medications, and assisting with medical procedures. They may also manage patient records, schedule appointments, and handle administrative tasks in the office. A medical assistant is an essential member of a healthcare team, working closely with doctors, registered nurses, and other healthcare professionals.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical assistants have a wide range of responsibilities, depending on the facility they are employed in. They are essential to the smooth running of medical facilities, and without them, doctors and other healthcare professionals would not be able to provide the quality care that patients need. Generally, they perform both administrative and clinical duties that contribute to the efficient and effective functioning of a medical office.

Some of the duties common to a medical assistant’s job description include:

Administrative Duties

Medical assistants perform a variety of administrative duties, such as scheduling appointments, maintaining medical records, answering phones, and greeting patients. They also assist with billing and coding, as well as handling insurance forms and processing claims. In addition, they may be responsible for managing inventory, ordering supplies, and keeping track of equipment maintenance.

Clinical Duties

Clinical duties are an essential part of a medical assistant’s job. They help physicians with medical procedures, such as taking vital signs, drawing blood, and collecting lab specimens. They also prepare patients for examinations and assist with minor surgical procedures. Medical assistants may also administer medications and injections, as well as perform electrocardiograms (EKGs) and other diagnostic tests.

Patient Care

Patient care is at the heart of what medical assistants do. They work closely with patients to ensure that they are comfortable and receive the care they need. Medical assistants are often the first point of contact for patients, and they must be able to communicate effectively and empathetically. They also play a vital role in educating patients about their health and wellness, including providing information about medications, treatments, and preventative care.

Summary of Steps

How to Become a Medical Assistant

Medical assistant jobs are often entry-level positions, providing an excellent opportunity for those new to the healthcare field as they do not require a long-term commitment or a college degree. To become a certified medical assistant, individuals must generally complete a postsecondary medical assisting program and pass a certification exam.


Meet the Educational Requirements

Begin by securing a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a GED. Additionally, you'll need to complete a certificate or diploma program in medical assisting.


Consider Medical Assistant Certification

While not obligatory, certification can enhance your employability. The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) is widely recognized.


Gain Work Experience

Many employers prefer candidates with practical experience. You can acquire this through internships, externships, on-the-job training, or volunteering at hospitals or clinics.


Apply for Jobs

Once you've completed your education and gained some experience, it's time to seek employment. Look for job openings online or contact local healthcare facilities.

Steps in Detail

1. Meet the Educational Requirements

Most medical assistant positions require a high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED. Additionally, a certificate or diploma in medical assisting is usually required, which can be earned from a vocational school, community college, or technical institute. Medical assistant programs generally take one to two years to complete (a one-year certificate or a two-year associate degree program) and include coursework in anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, pharmacology, laboratory procedures, patient care practices, and medical office administration.

2. Consider Medical Assistant Certification

Certification is not mandatory for medical assistants, but it can help individuals stand out in the job market. The most widely recognized national certification for medical assistants is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential offered through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Other certifications include the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) offered by the American Medical Technologists and the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing. Each certification requires passing an exam and meeting certain education and experience requirements.

3. Gain Work Experience

Many employers prefer to hire medical assistants with some work experience, which can be gained through internships, externships, or on-the-job training. You can also gain experience by volunteering at a local hospital or clinic. This experience will help you develop the skills needed to succeed as a medical assistant, such as multitasking, working in a fast-paced environment, and communicating effectively with patients and healthcare providers.

4. Apply for Jobs

Once you have completed your education and gained some work experience, it’s time to start applying for medical assistant positions. You can search for jobs online or contact local hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices to inquire about available positions. Make sure to tailor your resume and cover letter to each job you apply for, highlighting your skills and qualifications that match the job description.

You can also reach out to your network of contacts, such as former colleagues or instructors, to see if they know of any openings. Be sure to take advantage of all available resources to increase your chances of finding the perfect medical assistant job.

114 k+
Job Openings Per Year
$ 40700
Mean Annual Wage
14 %
Job Growth

Medical Assistant Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for medical assistants in the United States is $38,190. However, this can vary significantly based on factors such as level of experience, geographic location, type of employer, and type of certification.

In general, larger cities tend to offer higher salaries than smaller towns or rural areas. As with many professions, medical assistants with more experience who hold advanced certifications, such as a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) tend to earn higher salaries than those without certification. Additionally, medical assistants who work in hospitals usually earn more than those who work in clinics or physician’s offices.

Job Outlook for Medical Assistants

The demand for medical assistants is rapidly increasing due to changes in healthcare delivery, such as the increased focus on preventive care and patient-centered care. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the employment of medical assistants will grow by 16% over the next ten years – with 123,000 new job openings for medical assistants each year through 2031.

Medical assistant jobs are expected to be particularly plentiful in outpatient care centers, physicians’ offices, and hospitals, as medical facilities replace workers who leave the field to pursue other occupations or retire. Additionally, the BLS reports that job opportunities for medical assistants should be especially good in rural areas where healthcare providers are scarce.

Additional Resources

Medical Assistant FAQ

Is a medical assistant a nurse?

No, a medical assistant is not a nurse. Medical assistants and nurses both play essential roles in the healthcare industry, but they are not the same. Medical assistants typically work under the supervision of a doctor or nurse and provide administrative and clinical support. Nurses, on the other hand, provide medical care, diagnosis, and treatment to patients.

What is the highest level of medical assistant?

The highest level of a medical assistant is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). CMA certification requires passing an exam administered by a recognized certifying board and demonstrating mastery of a variety of medical assistant skills. CMAs also must complete continuing education courses to maintain their certification.

What is the highest a medical assistant can make an hour?

The highest hourly rate a medical assistant can make depends on factors such as geographic location, type of employer, and level of experience. Medical assistants in the top 10% in California, Washington, Alaska, and the District of Columbia reported annual wages over $60,000 per year, with medical assistants in California earning the highest amount at $61,800 annually.

What is the best job as a medical assistant?

The best job as a medical assistant depends on your personal interests, skills, and qualifications. Some of the most popular jobs for medical assistants include working in an outpatient care center, hospital, or doctor’s office. You may also consider working in a specialty area such as geriatrics or pediatrics if you have experience or interest in those areas.

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