Medical Assistant

Autopsy Assistant, Certified Coding Specialist, Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)   More Names
Certified Phlebotomy Technician, Certified Professional Coder (CPC), Chiropractor Assistant, Client Service Coordinator, Client Services Coordinator, Clinic Assistant, Clinical Assistant, Clinical Office Technician, Doctor Assistant, Doctor's Assistant, Eye Technician, Health Information Coder, Health Services Information Specialist, Health Unit Clerk, Hemodialysis Patient Care Specialist, Hospital Clinic Assistant, Medical Assistant (MA), Medical Assistants, Medical Billing Coder, Medical Billing Specialist, Medical Insurance Coding Specialist, Medical Office Assistant, Medical Office Technician, Medical Office Worker, Medical Support Assistant, Medical Technician Assistant (Medical Tech Assistant), Morgue Attendant, Morgue Technician, Ocular Care Aide, Ophthalmic Aide, Ophthalmic Technician, Optometric Aide, Optometric Assistant, Optometric Technician, Optometrist Assistant, Optometry Assistant, Orthopedic Assistant, Orthopedic Cast Specialist, Physician's Aide, Podiatric Aide, Podiatric Assistant, Podiatrist Assistant, Registered Medical Assistant (RMA), Respiratory Therapist Assistant, Sleep Technician, Sterile Processing Technician, Surgery Scheduler, Vein Access Technician, Visual Training Aide

Perform administrative and clinical duties under the direction of a physician or other medical practitioner. Administrative duties may include scheduling appointments, keeping medical records, billing, and insurance coding. Clinical duties may include taking and recording vital signs and medical histories, preparing patients for examination, drawing blood, and administering medications as directed by a physician.

Medical assistants help doctors and other medical professionals with both administrative and clinical tasks that help keep their offices running smoothly. The majority work in the offices of physicians. Many of the remainder work in public and private hospitals, - especially in outpatient facilities - and in the offices of other health practitioners, such as chiropractors and optometrists. Some also work in other healthcare facilities, such as outpatient care centers.

The duties of medical assistants vary from office to office, depending on the location and size of the practice and the practitioner's specialty. In small practices, medical assistants usually do many different kinds of tasks, handling both administrative and clinical duties and reporting directly to an office manager, physician, or other health practitioner. Those employed in larger practices tend to specialize in a particular area, under the supervision of department managers.

In their administrative role, medical assistants update and file patients' medical records, fill out insurance forms, and arrange for hospital admissions and laboratory services. In addition, they may help to transmit medical records and other correspondence by mail, email, and fax. They also perform tasks less specific to medical settings, such as answering telephones, greeting patients, handling correspondence and scheduling appointments, and doing billing and bookkeeping. The clinical duties of medical assistants vary depending on state law. Some common tasks include taking medical histories; recording vital signs, weight, and height; explaining treatment procedures to patients; preparing patients for examinations, and assisting physicians during examinations. They also collect and prepare laboratory specimens and sometimes perform basic laboratory tests, dispose of contaminated supplies, and sterilize medical instruments.

As directed by a physician, medical assistants might instruct patients about medications and special diets, prepare and administer medications, telephone prescriptions to a pharmacy, draw blood, prepare patients for x-rays, take electrocardiograms, remove sutures, and change dressings. They also may arrange examining room instruments and equipment, purchase and maintain supplies and equipment, and keep waiting and examining rooms well-organized, clean, and sanitary.

Medical assistants are allied health professionals who perform both clinical and administrative duties even if, at one time or another, they may work in a strictly clinical or administrative capacity depending on their current job duties. Individuals who are trained in only one of these capacities are not, by definition, medical assistants.

As an entry-level position in healthcare, medical assistants have a number of different career pathway options. For example, those interested in administrative work may choose to obtain additional education and training to become a health information administrator or medical transcriptionist. With experience and management training, they may also aspire to become a medical office supervisor or health unit coordinator.

Other medical assistants may choose to pursue further education and training and follow a direct patient care track to become a registered nurse (RN), surgical assistant, or physician assistant. Alternatively, those interested in clinical work may decide to obtain different education and skills training to become a medical and clinical laboratory technician or technologist, and with later experience possibly become a clinical laboratory supervisor or manager.

Credentials Needed: Most states currently do not require licensure or registration to work as a medical assistant. Two states that do have licensing requirements are North Dakota and South Dakota. Requirements vary by state and may change over time, so it is a good idea to check with your state when beginning a medical assisting course of study to find out the latest information.

Employers often prefer to hire or promote medical assistants who have earned an industry-based, nationally-recognized certification. In addition, the 2011 Salary Survey conducted by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) found that full-time medical assistants holding the AAMA's Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential earned more on average than medical assistants who did not have the CMA certification or held another type of medical assisting certification.

Four organizations that sponsor national medical assistant certifications include: the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) which offers the Certified Medical Assistant (AAMA) certification; the Association of Medical Technologists (AMT) which sponsors the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential; the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) which offers the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) and Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) credentials; and the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) which administers the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) credential.

Each of these organizations has different certification requirements. When considering options for a medical assistant certification, it may be helpful to check with your educational institution and several local physician or other practitioner employers to find out if there is a preference for one or more of these different credentials or certification sponsors. Even if certification is not required in your state, you may move to another state where employers require national certification such as the CMA (AAMA), RMA or other medical assistant credentials. National certification is portable from one state to another.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
24% - Much faster than average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $26,860 - $37,760    Hourly: $13 - $18
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

No specifc requirement is identified at this time.

Legal Requirements

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

Certificate (High School + 0-4 years, Certificate awarded)
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Percent Job Growth:

24% - Much faster than average
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Typical Wages:

Annual: $26,860 - $37,760

Hourly: $13 - $18