Learn more about medical assisting career information and education. Find information on medical assisting careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students to become a medical assistant.
As health care in the United States continues to be a growing concern, especially with an aging population, the career of the Medical Assistant will not only be in high demand, but also secure and profitable. Medical Assistants perform both clinical and administrative tasks in physician offices. They work for pediatricians, chiropractors, ophthalmologists, podiatrists, and physicians. The duties and responsibilities of the medical assistant can vary from office to office, depending upon geographical location, physician specialty, and size of the medical practice. Medical assistants do not work in the area of patient care (examining, diagnosing or treating a patient under the doctor’s supervision), but have several other important duties that revolve around the successful operation of the physician’s office. The vast majority of medical assistants, 62 percent, work directly in private physician offices, frequently reporting to an office manager. Formal training is not necessarily a requirement for employment. Most medical assistants receive on-the-job training. However, some States offer certification programs that, not only allow individuals to perform more complex procedures, such as taking x-rays. Many medical assisting programs are available across the country at vocational high schools or community colleges, where candidates may receive a certificate after a 1-year course, or an Associate’s Degree after two years of study.
With the desire to work in a physician’s office, the medical assistant can find him or herself responsible for a number of tasks. Administrative medical assistants, for example, in general are responsible for maintaining, organizing and filing patient medical records. These individuals are often also in charge of important tasks such as answering the telephone, scheduling appointments, bookkeeping, and greeting patients. An outgoing personality and the desire to work with people are important interpersonal skills required for this career. Clinical medical assistants have different responsibilities that are often determined by state law. The individuals can oversee the taking of medical histories from patients, recording a person’s vital signs (pulse, blood pressure, etc.), preparing patients for an exam, and assisting the physician. The job may also include collecting specimens, telephone prescriptions into pharmacies, change dressings or remove sutures. Frequently they must also ensue that exam rooms are well stocked and orderly. Certain medical areas require specialize assistants. Podiatric medical assistants work with foot doctors, making plaster casts or assisting the podiatrist in surgery. Ophthalmic or optometric medical assistants work with eye doctors, conducting vision tests, instructing patients on the use and care of contact lenses, and administering eye drops.
Industry Salary Info
The earnings of a medical assistant will vary widely, depending upon the size of the physician’s medical practice, experience in the field, and geographic location. Some general statistics, however, can be noted. The median average wage for medical assistants across the United States was $28,300 in 2008. This ranged from a low of under $20,000 to a high of $40,000 for the top ten percent. The overwhelming number of medical assistants fall somewhere in the middle of these numbers, making between $23,700 and $33,050 on an annual basis.
Wages also differ depending upon which of the major industries requiring medical assistants. The vast majority, 62 percent as noted, worked in private physician offices, and averaged $28,710 per year. Assistants working in surgical hospitals earned slightly more, $29,720 annually, as did medical assistant working in a university health care center, who brought home $28,820. Lower on the pay scale are medical assistants working at outpatient care centers, who take home, on average, $28,570.
The rate of employment growth for medical assistants is expected to rise at a much faster than average rate, as compared to other careers, over the next decade. Especially for individuals who seek out professional certification or an Associate’s Degree, medical assisting will be one of the most in-demand careers. It is expected that the need for qualified candidates will increase by an astounding 34 percent, due to an aging population, expansion of medical technology, retirement of the current work force and the prevalence of negative health consequences in the general population, such as diabetes and obesity. The number of group physician offices and outpatient clinics is expected to grow in the coming years, increasing the demand for medical assistants, allowing doctors to delegate many routine tasks in the need to service more patients. Individuals who can be responsible for both medical and clerical responsibilities will have even greater than usual job opportunities.