What is a medical assistant?
A medical assistant is a vital part of every health care team and plays the part of a physician’s aide but they are not a physician assistant. A physician assistant has the ability to prescribe medications and has a broader scope of practice which a medical assistant does not. If you are considering becoming a medical assistant you need to know that what they do can be split into two main areas: administrative medical assistant and clinical medical assistant. A medical assistant can also be known as certified medical assistant, medical office assistant, or registered medical assistant. A medical assistant is also the person who helps the physician spend more time with the patient examining them and finding out what is wrong instead of spending more time on taking vital signs, taking medical history, etc.
Job description of a medical assistant
As mentioned there are two parts to the job description of a medical assistant. Here are the job descriptions of each aspect of being a medical assistant.
Clinical medical assistant
In this part of being a medical assistant it is their job to assist healthcare practitioners, including the physician, in carrying out the clinical tasks they do on a daily basis. A medical assistant can help to alleviate the extra burdens that are put on the physician by helping with simple task like changing dressings on a wound and giving oral medications. A medical assistant is considered a non-licensed healthcare occupation. This basically means that a medical assistant’s duties will vary according to their work environment and they are also widely unregulated. One important note to remember is that for a clinical medical assistant to perform their routine daily tasks it must always be done under the direct supervision of the physician they are working for.
Administrative medical assistant
In this part of being a medical assistant it is their job to help healthcare providers, including the physician with doing daily routine administrative tasks. They can also be known as secretarial medical assistants.
You should also have good organizational skills and be computer literate.
How to become a medical assistant?
To become a medical assistant there is no formal licensure requirements or formal education required to become a medical assistance but having a certificate in medical assisting can be extremely beneficial in finding a job. Having that certificate shows your prospective employer that you have been trained in the duties that a medical assistant will do on a daily basis whether you will be working as an administrative medical assistant or clinical medical assistant. It lets them know that you will not require any extensive training before you can start to perform your duties. The only training that a medical assistant with a certificate would need is to be trained in the ways that things are done in that particular work environment. Even if you do not continue your education to become certified you do need to have a high school diploma or GED. You also need to be at least 18 years of age before you can apply for certification. In certain states it is a requirement for a medical assistant to graduate from an accredited program in order to perform certain tasks like taking x-rays or drawing blood. Three of those states are South Dakota, California, and Minnesota.
It is also common for some work environments to hire someone and give them on-the-job training but with the fast pace that most working environments for a medical assistant have today they would most likely choose a new medical assistant for their office with a certificate instead of doing on-the-job training as it would save them time. The newly hired medical assistant would be ready to start work their first day. There is even the option to earn a voluntary certification through different organizations.
If you decide to earn that medical assistant certificate to give you an advantage of securing a job you would learn how to perform routine administrative and clinical task so you would have the opportunity to choose between working as a clinical or administrative medical assistant or a combination of both. You would learn how to collect a patient’s data, how to do dressing changes, how to request laboratory tests results and scheduling lab tests, how to take vital signs, scheduling, preparing the patient for the physician and more. You would also take classes in patient care, anatomy, nutrition, physiology, etc.
Usually as part of the certificate program you will have to complete a practice in a medical setting so they can apply what they have learned in the classroom. In this clinical practice you will shadow an experienced medical assistant in the office where you are taking your clinical practice as they perform both administrative and clinical duties. If the office where you are doing your clinical practice has a medical assistant for clinical duties and one for administrative duties you would shadow both of them
Once you complete your classroom studies and clinical practice from an accredited program you can get your certification from one of the following four organizations that offer medical assistant certification according to the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
- American Medical Technologists
- National Healthcareer Association
- American Association of Medical Assistants
- National Center for Competency Testing
Each one will require the medical assistant pass an exam in order to receive their certification. Certification is not required to gain employment as a medical assistant but many employers would prefer it if you were certified. Getting that certification will also give you more of an advantage to get a job over those who do not have the certification.
In today’s world it is possible to take a medical assistant course online and be done in a few months where as taking the course in a brick and mortar school could take up to 24 months or more. It depends on whether you are going full or part time. If you decide to take the medical assistant program online look for a program that has been accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Enrolling in a program accredited by either of these will help to assure that you will be proficient in collecting specimens, caring for patients, performing fundamental procedures, and administering diagnostic tests. A medical assistant should also be certified in first aid and in pediatric and adult CPR.
Work environment and schedule
Over 50% of medical assistants work in a physician’s office according to the U.S. Statistics but you can also find them working in the offices of other healthcare practitioners such as podiatrists, chiropractors, internal medicine, etc. Some work in public and private hospitals, educational facilities like colleges or universities, research laboratories, long-term care facilities and nursing homes, and outpatient care centers. Normally a medical assistant will work a 40 week but that 40 hours could include weekends, holidays, and evenings. Where they work plays a big part in their work schedule. For example, if they are working as an administrative medical assistant in a hospital they may be working in billing or registration which would not have a set 40 hour Monday through Friday schedule but could include evening, holiday, and weekend hours.
Some of the duties that a clinical medical assistant may do on a daily basis can include:
- Helping to prepare the patients for their examinations by the physician
- Checking the patient’s vital signs, going over the prescriptions the patient might be on, and asking what they are seeing the physician for that day so the physician has all that information before seeing the patient.
- Administering oral medications and injections such as a flu shot
- Conduction basic laboratory tests like taking a throat swab and checking to see if the patient has strep throat, checking urine samples, etc.
- Helping to prepare the patient for x-rays
- Performing an electrocardiography (ECG) which is when they put those patches on you to check how your heart is working.
- Removing stitches and changing the dressings on wounds
- Taking blood samples
- Being in the room with the patient and physician to help the physician if they need any help along with protecting the physician from being hit with sexual harassment suits when there are women patients in the room.
- Sterilizing medical equipment
Some of the duties that an administrative medical assistant may do on a daily basis can include:
- Recording and filing medical information
- Managing emails and incoming and outgoing phone calls
- Completing and submitting insurance forms
- Buying and storing medical equipment and supplies along with office supplies
- Managing the billings for insurance companies, Medicaid, Medicare, and self pay patients that include sending bills to patients, recording any payments, etc.
- Scheduling patient appointments along with checking in a patient who is there to see the physician.
Pros and cons of being a Medical Assistant
It’s not always easy to choose the right career and find it very rewarding at the same time, but working in the health care system can many times be exactly what a person could wish to have. Medical assistant usually provide care for patients of all age categories.
The job of a medical assistant has its ups and downs but what is different about it is that at the end of a day you’ll know that you were there when a person needed you the most. Also, you will know that you’ve made some serious improvements regarding a person’s health and you were able to provide the required assistance and support.
When picking your dream job, it is wise each time to check every possibility that comes your way. Whether it is the online or offline system, the information that you collect must include some accurate facts about the salary. You also need to find out about the training and instruction that is given in that job as well as the industry that hires. This can be seen as some of the most important factors when you are searching for a well-balanced and perfect job.
Here is a tip that will be very useful if you really decided that the medical assistant job is the perfect match. Make a list including the pros and the cons that this job can bring and after weighing them decide. If you are more like a person that likes the assessment techniques, then this is surely the best pick that you could ever make when choosing this career. Helping patients will be a very rewarding process.
The worst that comes with this job is that many of your patients are in pain, and some are afraid of the techniques that you are going to use on them. This is valid especially when you are dealing with children. So, many times stress can be added to various or unexpected situations.
Another pro is that you’ll never have time to deal with being bored since the tasks regarding your job can vary. The fact that you’ve chosen to train in one specific area will allow you to increase you salary, your knowledge in the field and gain a much larger experience.
The job opportunities are varied and as a Medical Assistant you’ll have plenty of opportunities where to pick from. The job industry in this profession is large and will include settings such as hospitals, psychiatric institutions, clinics, schools and other facilities.
A huge con that might or might not affect your perspective is linked to the salary of a medical assistant compared with the salary of other specialists. With the similar tasks and duties, a Licensed Practical Nurse is earning more than a medical assistant.
The training for a medical assistant can be many times very costly and time-consuming. In addition, in order to gain higher income you’ll have to become licensed and certificated along in order to be able to practice along with the continuous education that one of these professionals must go through.
Medical Assistant job growth
A medical assistant is one of the professionals that plays an important part in the community and the medical field. The employment growth is projected at 23%-24% rate or even higher. This is due mainly to the nature of the job itself, the number of demanding and the fact that many medical assistants will continue their training to complete a nursing degree, this leading to higher income opportunities.
The work environment for these professionals is varied, many of them finding a job within hospitals or private practices, while others find work in correctional facilities, or choose an educational role. The demand for these professionals is also influenced by an increase in the aging baby-boomer population that need more and more preventative medical services.
Services that are often provided by Physicians that need more assistance in performing the clinical duties and administrative routine, leading them to having their practice expand and also to hire more medical assistants.
Medical assistant salary
The salary of a medical assistant varies according to their work environment, geographical location, work experience, being certified or non-certified, job duties, etc. On average, in the lowest 10% of medical assistants earned an average annual salary of around $26,000 or less while the ones in the upper 10% earned an average annual salary of $37,000 or higher. According to statistic the lowest paying state for medical assistants was West Virginia and the highest was Alaska. It has also shown that if you work in a psychiatric hospital you would be earning more than if you were working in a physician’s office or general hospitals. If you are non-certified you would earn an average annual salary of $20,160-$35,492 while certified medical assistants earned an average annual salary of $21.042-$37,420. There is approximately $2,000 different between being certified and non-certified so it would be in your best interest to get that certification either online or at a vocational school or community college.
Figuring into the salary is the perks, or benefits, that a medical assistant would receive such as paid vacation days, paid sick days, holidays off, personal days, life insurance, medical insurance that may cover the family, vision and dental care, 401K, pension, social security, short and long term disability, possible tuition reimbursement if you are taking classes to further your education, and more.
Salary of a Medical Assistant in 2015
As a medical assistant, your salary in the US will be influenced according to various and numerous factors this including the area in which you are working, the type of facility and the specialization that you have. In 2015, the salary of one of these professionals is influenced mainly by the same factors. With an annual salary of $30,010 per year, the higher and the lowest points can decrease or increase one’s income. This is done according to the years of this career, the experience in this field, adding various salaries in different states.
Medical Assistant Salary in 2016
For the year 2016, in the United States, the salaries of medical assistants are influenced by several factors that affect this field. A medical assistant earnings are impacted by the geographical location, industry size, type of employment and educational level. The years of experience don’t seem to have a very significant part in this field, the increase in the salaries of these professionals is not considered to be a lot higher.
According to PayScale, the incomes of these professionals are estimated to range from $21,269 per year and $38,081 per year with benefits added. For instance, the bonuses that are added to these professionals are estimated at $982 while the profit sharing that is earned is comprised from $243.62 and $3,637. The Commissions that are granted to this group usually start from $125.86, and they can climb up to $9,437.
When it comes to the geographical location factor, the national average of the salaries in the US is estimated at $28,879 per year. Cities that have above the national average rate of incomes are Seattle, Atlanta, New York, San Diego and other. For instance, in Seattle, the earnings for medical assistants reach at a median payment of $37,238 per year while in New York the estimated median income has an average of $33,218 per year.
On the other side, Las Vegas pays these professionals below the national average, with earnings reaching at $28,728 per year. For an entry-level medical assistant with up to 4 years in the field, the salary is estimated to have a median average of $27,010 per year, while for an individual that has been working in the field for 5 and up to 10 years the incomes that are received are estimated at $30,010 per year.
Those who have been in this field for 10 and up to 19 years can expect to take home an average median income that reaches at $32,010 per year while those with more than 20 years can expect at median earnings that climb up to $34,010 per year.
According to Salary.com for the year 2016, the median yearly income is estimated to reach at $33,060 per year. These median salaries for medical assistants have a range that is estimated between $30,481 per year and up to $35,686 per year. The incomes vary according to the some early mentioned factors and other as well.
Medical assistant salary in Canada, Australia and UK
- UK—working here that average annual salary is 15,600-32,359
- Australia—working here the average annual salary is AU$25,670-AU$56,591.
- Canada—working here the average annual salary is C$23.798-C$50,723.
As you can see the UK has the lowest average annual medical assistants salary but the reason could be that the outline of the health care system and the standards of living is not as great a place as Canada and Australia.
Conclusion on medical assistant salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the employment opportunities for medical assistants, both certified and non-certified, were predicted to increase 29% from the years 2012-2022 and the reason that there is expected to be a growing aging population that are going to require preventative medical care. Being a medical assistant is one of the fastest growing occupations in the healthcare field today. There is also expected to be an overall expansion during this time frame of the health care field.
The average annual salary for a medical assistant just starting in the field is $26,000 which does not sound like a lot but having that medical assistant certification can help you to get into degree programs where you could become a physician’s assistant or into nursing to become a registered nurse or nurse practitioner that guarantees a higher salary. Yes you could make as much, if not more, working in a factory, being a manager in a restaurant, or working in the business world but if you enjoy working with people, helping make them feel better, have great communication skills, have patience and passion for the job then this would be the job for you.
- First Published Date: 16 September, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 25 August, 2016