Medical Assistant

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical assistants are specially trained to take care of certain administrative and/or clinical duties in doctor’s offices, as well as the offices of various specialists, such as OB/GYNs, podiatrists, chiropractors, or optometrists. A medical assistant’s responsibilities will vary depending on where they work, but many perform routine duties such as taking a patient’s blood pressure, height and weight and collecting lab specimens before a patient is seen by a physician, as well as recording medical histories. Medical assistants may report to an office manager or directly to a physician or other health care practitioner. Some medical assistants serve only in an administrative capacity and deal primarily with a patient’s paperwork, including medical records, insurance forms, and lab records, as well as answering phone calls, scheduling appointments, and managing incoming and outgoing mail. Others serve only in a clinical capacity, directly assisting a physician or nurse practitioner before, during and after a patient’s examination or screening.

How Can I Become a Medical Assistant?

To become a medical assistant, you will need to have earned your high school diploma or its equivalent. Some positions will require a degree, but you will not always need to have a degree to become a medical assistant. That being said, taking at least some formal college courses, particularly in anatomy & physiology, medical terminology, and accounting, is helpful in preparing you for medical assisting and in helping you to obtain a job. Associate degrees are particularly useful to that end. Medical assistant education and training are offered in vocational-technical programs in high schools and vocational colleges, as well as community and junior colleges, resulting in a diploma or associate degree in medical assisting, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Formal education programs that include an internship are especially useful in helping you land a job. If you choose not to obtain a diploma or degree in medical assisting, you will do well to obtain experience as a secretary or administrative assistant, or to do volunteer work related to health care. After gaining experience in medical assisting, you can pursue certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants.

What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Medical Assistant?

The career outlook for medical assistants throughout the next 10 years is excellent, and experienced medical assistants who specialize in a particular area of health care are often highly sought-after. In fact, medical assistants have one of the fastest-growing professions in the nation. The overall employment of medical assistants is projected to grow by a whopping 34 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s higher anticipated employment growth even than registered nurses! The average annual salary for a medical assistant is $28,300, according to the Bureau. However, a number of factors can affect your salary as a medical assistant, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area. Medical assistants who hold associate degrees can generally command higher salaries than those who do not.

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