Medical Assistant Careers

NUMBER OF JOBS

527,000

JOB OPENINGS

162,000

JOB GROWTH

31%

AVG. SALARY

$28,860 /yr

$13.87 /hr

All Stats from BLS.gov

Medical assistants play a key role in delivering medical care to patients and managing the operations of medical facilities. They work in all areas of health care, from podiatry to pediatrics, chiropractics to general practitioners’ officers. Their exact job duties vary—depending on the type of practice and its size.

Medical Assistant Job Description

Most medical assistants measure vital signs, perform examinations with the help of the physician, give injections, schedule appointments, prepare samples for laboratory work, and keep records. Unlike physician assistants, they typically do not examine, diagnose, or treat illnesses. Administrative medical assistants specialize in the non-clinical side of the job, particularly in larger facilities.

How to Become a Medical Assistant

Earn a high school diploma. While there is no official requirement for medical assistant education in most states, many employers expect at least a high school diploma. Earning high grades in chemistry, biology, anatomy, and other related classes can help you qualify for the job.

Earn a certificate or Associate’s degree. While many medical assistants do not have more than a high school diploma, some employers prefer applicants with at least some postsecondary education. Some colleges offer one-year certificates in medical assistance, while others offer two-year Associate’s degrees.

In some states, medical assistants who take x-rays, give injections, or perform other advanced duties are required to pass accredited degree programs or an exam. Check with your state’s medical board to be sure.

Get certified. Certification is not required, but employers prefer it—and it can help you stand out from other job applicants. There are numerous professional credentialing organizations in this field, including the American Association of Medical Assistants, which offers the Certified Medical Assistant designation. Applicants must graduate from a school accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and pass an exam.

Becoming a Medical Assistant With an Online Degree

While online degrees can more accepted in this career than for other careers in the medical field, health care employers tend to be suspicious of degrees earned online in general—as the hands-on component is so important to clinical work. When evaluating an accredited online degree program in this field, be sure they are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools; they offer a hands-on component or partner with someone in your area to arrange one; and are accepted by your state if applicable to your situation.

Medical Assistant Salary

Medical assistants earned an average of $28,860 in 2010, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Those on the low end of the pay scale earned under $20,810, while those at the top earned $40,190 or more.

Job Outlook for Medical Assistants

The job outlook in this field is projected to grow 31% in the next ten years according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This is quite fast compared with projected growth for all jobs nationwide, and is expected to be fueled by the increased need for medical services as the baby boom generation ages. Medical assistants are often less expensive than other administrative and clinical support professionals such as nurses, and many physicians are expected to turn to them to keep costs down.

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Medical Assistant

While the entry-level education requirement for this position is not high, neither is the pay—and this can often be a difficult profession for that reason. In addition, most medical assistants work full-time—a large number must work irregular hours to accommodate twenty-four-hour medical facilities. For these reasons, the job can also be demanding.

However, it is also expected to be stable—and opportunities are projected to grow in the coming decade.

 

Where to Find Medical Assistant Jobs

Monster.com
Health Care Job Match
SimplyHired.com