Working as a medical assistant provides a challenging yet rewarding career in the medical field.
Currently, there are approximately 820,000 doctors working in the United States alone. For these doctors to be proficient in their applicable roles or areas of expertise, they depend heavily on properly trained medical assistants. These professionals leverage also leverage the doctor’s time, and lower the costs associated with providing quality healthcare (since they can perform many of the tasks normally performed by doctors) for a fraction of the cost.
In addition to medical assistants being vital to doctors, they work for different types of therapists and in some instances, registered nurses.
Vital statistics: The U.S. Department of Labor reports job opportunities for medical assistants as being “excellent”, and rank this occupation as being one the fastest growing for the 10 year period spanning 2008-2018. They estimate in excess of 163,000 new jobs in this field, an increase of 34%.
Duties of a Medical Assistant
Because there are different types of medical assistants, job responsibilities and medical assistant training varies. The different opportunities help gain the interest of a much broader range of people. No matter the type of assistance a person becomes, the services provided are highly valued, which is why this healthcare profession is worth serious consideration. The following are four of the primary types of medical assistants and relative duties.
- Administrative Medical Assistant: In this role, patient files and records would be updated and maintained, insurance forms completed and submitted, laboratory testing and hospital stays scheduled, and other administrative type work.
- Clinical Medical Assistant: State law plays a huge role in the type of work this type of medical assistant performs. However, taking a patient’s medical history, keeping track of vital signs, going over medical procedures with patients, and providing assistance to doctors when needed are among the more common responsibilities.
- Ophthalmic Medical Assistant: Duties expected of this medical assistant involve anything doing with care of the eye. As far as specific responsibilities, these would depend on need of the doctor.
- Podiatric Medical Assistant: This person would explain exercises, saunas, massages, wraps, and other procedures used for therapy to patients having foot problems. In addition, the assistant would likely bandage feet after surgery, get a surgeon’s operating tools ready, and even have the responsibility of ordering equipment and supplies and overseeing inventory.
Medical Assistant Training & Certification
Interestingly enough, not all medical assistants requires a college degree. Some assistants are high school graduates who are trained on the job. These people spend much of their first few months alongside more experienced professionals, in what can loosely be considered an “apprenticeship” role. They will also regularly attend training sessions.
That said, some formal training is preferred by most employers, and is the recommended route to take, as it generally leads to better pay and greater employment opportunities. In this case, you have two options…
- A one year program: This is considered a “diploma” or “certificate” program.
- A two year program: This yields an associate’s degree.
Of course, completing the 1-year course gets you out and into the workforce more quickly, but obtaining a two year associate’s degree gives you an edge over the competition, greater earning power, and more flexibility in the jobs for which you can apply. In fact, anyone looking to get established quickly and advance quickly within the healthcare sector probably should go ahead and earn an associate’s degree at minimum.
These courses are widely taught at vocational schools and community colleges, and the appropriate training may very well be available in your local area. Just make the course you are taking is properly accredited; by either the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (or ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or CAAHEP.
In addition, medical assistant training is available online; there are many excellent resources from which to choose. This option allows you to obtain the majority of your training while still working a job, staying home with children, or having other responsibilities but without sacrificing on the quality of knowledge gained.
Medical assistants do not need to be certified, but once again, being so will differentiate you from less educated competitors, increase your income earning power and job options. Certification can be obtained from the American Medical Technologists, or the American Association of Medical Assistants.
Medical Assistant Wages And Salary
How much can a medical assistant expect to earn?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median annual wage in 2008 was $28,300. The lowest paid assistants made less than $20,600, and the highest earned in excess of $39,000. The wide range of salaries can be attributed to numerous factors, one of the greatest no doubt being the education and training. This once again emphasizes the importance of a two year associate’s degree.