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Medical Assistant Career Guide

A medical assistant serves as a support for medical staff and doctors. They can take on more office based duties such as calling in prescriptions, corresponding with insurance companies and filing patient charts. Or, they can take on more clinical duties where they might draw blood, remove stitches, change dressings or perform basic laboratory tests.

Regardless of whether you are a medical assistant who performs mainly receptionist duties, or if you would rather spend most of your time working directly with patients, the best way to get an in-depth understanding of this career field is to read our real-world career profiles. Listen to experienced medical assistants talk about what they do on a daily basis and why they enjoy their jobs. Check out the profiles below to determine if is the right career for you.

Medical assistants help physicians run their offices, but they also provide patients with compassion and understanding while doing so. Like their fellow healthcare professionals, medical assistants take satisfaction in knowing they are helping patients and changing their lives for the better.

MTI College

Medical Assistant Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Medical Assistant Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Medical Assistant field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33700 Laboratory Research Assistant Female 35 $55,000 Union City, CA 01/01/2010
33689 Medical Assistant Female 32 $36,000 brooklyn, NY 01/01/2010
33642 Medical Assistatn Female 27 $40,000 Los Angeles, CA 01/01/2010
33532 Medical Assistant Male 26 $15,000 Wilsonville, OR 01/01/2010
33417 Medical Assistant Female 34 $35,000 WEST MILFORD, NJ 01/01/2010

Overview

What a medical assistant does

Medical assistants combine personal communication skill with office and clinical skills to serve as support staff for doctors and nurses. They can work in offices of physicians, hospital and other healthcare locations. Their duties vary slightly depending on the location, speciality and size of the practice. For example, when working in an office setting, medical assistants may:

  • Call in prescriptions
  • Correspond with insurance companies
  • File patient charts
  • Do the manual work to convert paper files to electronic format (EHRs)

Whereas, medical assistants that work in a more clinical setting (clinical medical assistants) will do more clinical tasks, such as:

  • Recording patients weight, height and blood pressure
  • Taking a detailed medical history and asking for the reason the patient is visiting
  • Drawing blood
  • Removing stitches
  • Doing basic laboratory tests
  • Instructing patients about medications or special diets
  • Changing dressing
  • Preparing patients for x rays

Why they are needed

All healthcare employees help people and have a great impact on their patients. Medical assistants play a huge part in the healthcare system and are needed for many reasons, for example:

  • As they are often a patients first point of contact, they influence their perception of healthcare. Medical assistants are needed to make people feel comfortable, safe and like they want to prioritize their health.
  • They conduct a wide range of responsibilities each day, which ensures the practice run smoothly (e.g., scheduling appointments or additional tests)
  • They take the pressure off physicians by doing administrative tasks. This makes a physicians job easier and more focused on patient care.

The pros and cons of a career as a medical assistant

Pros:

  • There is a short training period, making it an accessible career
  • There is lots of variety in a medical assistants responsibilities, which keeps it fun
  • Medical assistants have many job opportunities
  • Medical assistants can advance their skills and knowledge by specializing in a particular area
  • Medical assistants get to work with and meet lots of different people everyday

Cons:

  • Medical assistants may be overlooked and not as well respected as physicians
  • Medical assistants often work shifts, meaning they can work odd hours
  • It can be quite stressful and high pressured
  • Medical assistants don’t tend to receive a very high salary

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 19 percent from 2019 to 2029. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. This huge employment growth is expected because the aging baby-bloom population will continue to increase the demand for preventive medical services, which are provided by physicians. As a result, physicians will need to hire more assistants to perform administrative and routine clinical duties.

Career paths

To have the best employment opportunities, medical assistant should aim to graduate from a postsecondary education program. Programs for medical assistants are available at community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools and universities. They take around 1 year to complete and usually lead to a certificate or a diploma. In order to get an associates degree, some medical assistants can complete two year programs.

However, you can become a medical assistant with no postsecondary education. These medical assistants will learn all the skills they need through on-the-job training, where they are taught about medical terminology, names of instruments, how to do daily tasks and how to interact with patients.

Example Job Titles for Medical Assistant

Below is a list of common job titles in the Medical Assistant field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for medical assistants in the United States was $34,800 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,820 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $48,720.

The top paying industry for medical assistants was outpatient care centers, which had a median annual salary of $36,810. This was followed by hospitals ($36,080), office of physicians ($84,870) and offices of chiropractors ($30,870).

Autonomy and flexibility

Physician assistants have a huge variety of responsibilities, duties and tasks. As a whole, they are likely to feel like they have control over a lot of their decisions regarding the scheduling of appointments, taking tests and the smooth operation of the practice they work in. However, their autonomy is perhaps limited as they are not very senior members of the healthcare team. Everything they do will be limited by the needs, wants and schedules of the physicians they assist.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be a medical assistant, based on average annual salary and number of job opportunities available, are:

  1. Alaska, where the average annual salary is $46,678
  2. Maine, where the average annual salary is $36,850
  3. Washington, where the average annual salary is $39,221
  4. Oregon, where the average annual salary is $38,190
  5. Rhode Island, where the average annual salary is $35,454

The worst states, according to Zippia, are Delaware, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Work environment

The largest employer of medical assistants in the United States was offices of physicians, which employed 57% of all medical assistants. Hospitals employed 15%, outpatient care centers employed 8% and offices of chiropractors employed 4% of all medical assistants.

Often, medical assistants will work as part of a team with other healthcare professionals. They may find that they spend a lot of time sitting down if they do more receptionist/clerical duties. Whereas if they do more clinical duties they will spend more time on their feet walking around to greet patients and conduct tests on them.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Medical Assistant careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Medical Assistant career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Medical Assistant.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DISC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

Medical assistants are likely to have sociable personalities, as they will spend a lot of time interacting with patients and other medical staff. They are also likely to be highly conscientious and conventional, as they will need to organize things to ensure the medical center runs smoothly.

Accomplishment and mastery

Medical assistants aren’t likely to have huge amounts of accomplishment and mastery. This is because it is a relatively easy career to enter, and they are not hugely respected or well-regarded.

Meaning and contribution

The work of a medical assistant is very important. They take a lot of pressure off physicians and allow them to be better at their jobs. This saves lives, which has a huge meaning and contribution to others.

Life fit

Most medical assistants will work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week. Medical assistants may also work nights, weekends, or holidays.

Who will thrive?

There are many qualities that a medical assistant will need to thrive, for example:

  • They must have a genuine passion and excitement for helping others
  • Must enjoy working as part of a team
  • Must be non-judgemental
  • They will need excellent attention to details and listening skills
  • Communication skills and compassion are also important to thrive as a medical assistant

Who will struggle?

You are likely to struggle as a medical assistant if you cannot commit to the irregular shift hours that a medical assistant may have to work. You will also struggle as a medical assistant if you cannot remain and act calm in unforeseen circumstances. Finally, if you don’t like the idea of always being supervised by someone else and not being highly regarded, then you may struggle as a medical assistant.

Requirements

Skills and talents

Some of the essential skills needed as a medical assistant include:

  • Verbal communication and interpersonal skills, as most of a medical assistants day will be spent communicating with patients, physicians, or as a liaison between the two
  • Written communication skills, as medical assistant will need to keep written documents and charts up to date. They may also need to send emails or letters
  • Detail-oriented, as it is important that nothing slips past a medical assistant, especially when taking patient vitals or recording a patients information
  • Teamwork, as medical assistants must be able to work as part of team with other medical assistants, physicians and other healthcare departments
  • Multitasking, as medical assistants have many duties and responsibilities and may have to work on more than one task at a time
  • Prioritizing, as the responsibilities of a medical assistant can change at any given minute from one task to another. Therefore, they need to be able to prioritize urgent tasks and know what can get pushed back if need be

Education

There are three routes to becoming a medical assistant:

  1. Complete a 1-year postsecondary education course in medical assisting. These are available at community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools and universities
  2. To have even better employment opportunities, achieve an associates degree by completing a two year program
  3. Alternatively, medical assistants can skip the postsecondary education and get on-the-job training

Certificates

In most states, medical assistants are not required to be certified. However, many employers prefer to hire certified assistants.

Several organizations offer certification for medical assistants. In general, applicants must be over the age of 18, pass an exam and have taken one of several routes to be eligible for each certification. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, accredits five certifications for medical assistants:

How to Become

A medical assistant serves as a support for medical staff and doctors. They can take on more office based duties such as calling in prescriptions, corresponding with insurance companies and filing patient charts. Or, they can take on more clinical duties where they might draw blood, remove stitches, change dressings or perform basic laboratory tests.

The employment of medical assistants is expected to increase dramatically over the coming years, meaning it is a career that has excellent employment and progression opportunities.

Immediate action

If you like the sound of becoming a medical assistant then we recommend researching 1-year programs near you. It will also be beneficial to get some relevant work experience by volunteering in healthcare facilities so that you get an understanding of how practices work.

Education and learning

Medical assistants will need to complete a 1-year postsecondary education course in medical assisting. If they want to, they can stay on for an extra year to achieve an associates degree in medical assisting. Alternatively, medical assistants can try and get a job straight out of school. If they do this, they will receive on-the-job training.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Medical Assistant careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33700 Laboratory Research Assistant Female 35 $55,000 Union City, CA 01/01/2010
33689 Medical Assistant Female 32 $36,000 brooklyn, NY 01/01/2010
33642 Medical Assistatn Female 27 $40,000 Los Angeles, CA 01/01/2010
33532 Medical Assistant Male 26 $15,000 Wilsonville, OR 01/01/2010
33417 Medical Assistant Female 34 $35,000 WEST MILFORD, NJ 01/01/2010

Resources