Medical assistants perform clinical and administrative work for physicians or other medical practitioners. They may be responsible for either clinical or administrative work, or both. Whether they perform just administrative duties or just clinical work, or both, depends on the size of the practice.
Medical assistants working in larger practices usually specialize, while those in smaller practices perform a variety of tasks.
Medical assistants serve a vital role in the day-to-day operations of a practice. On a normal day, medical assistants will: take phone calls and schedule appointments; record information, including medical histories, lab test results and vital signs; prepare treatment rooms for patients; interview patients and chart vital signs; administer medication with a doctor’s supervision; clean and sterilize equipment; discard contaminated supplies, and gather laboratory specimens that includes tissue and blood.
Similar to most health care fields, the job outlook for medical assistants is considered excellent. This field is slated for rapid growth through the next five years; faster than other professions which require only hands on training or experience.
In terms of job satisfaction, the opportunity for upward mobility is below average nationally, while the stress level is above average and the flexibility is average.
According to Salary.com, the latest data shows medical assistants earn between $26,000-$36,000 annually. The median salary for a medical assistant is about $31,000 or approximately $15 per hour.
The top 10 percent earn about $41,000, while the bottom 10 percent make $21,000 on average.
Salaries for medical assistants in large metro areas along the East Coast tend to shift higher than other areas nationally. Medical assistants in Chicago tend to earn more as well. Those who earn the highest wages often work in hospitals or physicians offices.
While there is no requirement for medical assistants to be certified, certification does have its advantages. It shows to employers that a medical assistant has received formal training and has valuable experience, which can lead to more favorable employment and a higher salary.
Several professional organizations offer certification. Another way to become certified is through a certain medical specialty, which includes obstetrics or podiatry. Medical assistants must be polite, positive, and possess good communication skills.
Formal training or education is not required, however most have at least a high school diploma. Most learn through on-the-job training, while others complete a formal program of one or two years. Formal training programs offer students the chance to learn about laboratory techniques, clinical procedures, medical terminology, record keeping and other specialized training in fields related to podiatry and optometry.
Additional training may help medical assistants stand out in a large field of applicants.
In order to move up in the health care field, some medical assistants choose to advance their education. For instance, some go on to become nurses. For those who enjoy administrative tasks, becoming an office manager is also an option.
According to the latest data, about 484,000 people in the U.S. were employed as medical assistants. U.S. News and World Report ranked it as the 16th best health care profession.