Medical Assistant

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Table of Contents

Overview

Job Responsibilities

  • Appointment scheduling
  • Filing and updating patient’s medical records
  • Handling billing and bookkeeping
  • Taking patient’s medical histories
  • Assisting the physician during patient examinations
  • Preparing patients for physical examination
  • Recording patient’s vital signs

How Much Does a Medical Assistant Make?

Medical Assistants made a median salary of $33,610 in 2018. The best-paid 10 percent earned $47,250 that year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent earned $24,790.

medical-assistant-median-salary

Common Requirements

  • High school diploma or GED required
  • Completion of an accredited medical assistant certification program preferred
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Must be detail-oriented and highly organized
  • Must be able to maintain confidentiality at all times
  • Knowledge of patient care and examination procedures

Similar Careers

Occupational Therapy Assistants

Physical Therapist Assistants

Dental Assistants

Dental Hygienists

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Nursing Assistants

Pharmacy Technicians

Phlebotomists

Psychiatric Technicians

Common Skills

Organizational skills

Communication skills

Medical skills

Office skills

Customer service

Knowledge of safety and sanitation

MEDIAN SALARY

$33,610 per year
$16.16 per hour

JOB OUTLOOK

23%

NUMBER OF JOBS

686,600

A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Medical Assistant

If you want to have a career in the allied health professional field and work alongside doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and patients to provide top-notch healthcare service, then becoming a medical assistant might be the right job for you. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate of medical assistants is expected to grow by up to 23% from 2018 to 2028. This is because of the growing number of the aging population that will need medical services. U.S. News has also ranked it in the 52nd spot of the best 100 jobs, 6th in the best healthcare support jobs, and 2nd in the best jobs without a college degree. No wonder becoming a medical assistant is a rewarding career path and has excellent income opportunities. Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of medical assistants in 2018 was $33,610, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,250, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,790.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical assistants, also known as “healthcare assistants” or “clinical assistants” support doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to provide high-quality patient care. They are specially trained to act as the frontliners of physicians and other allied health professionals to perform a wide range of clinical and administrative tasks. Below are some of the tasks a medical assistant performs which may vary according to state law.

Administrative Tasks

  • Answering phone calls
  • Creating a welcoming environment for patients
  • Filing and updating patients’ medical records
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Handling correspondence
  • Arranging for hospital admission and laboratory services
  • Handling billing and bookkeeping
  • Medical billing and coding
  • Filling out insurance forms

Clinical Tasks

  • Recording vital signs
  • Taking medical histories
  • Enhancing patient understanding of medical procedures
  • Assisting the physician during patient examinations
  • Drawing blood using best practices in phlebotomy
  • Preparing and administering medications as directed by a physician
  • Removing sutures and changing dressings
  • Preparing patients for physical examination
  • Performing electrocardiograms on patients
  • Collecting and preparing laboratory specimen
  • Laboratory testing

Becoming a medical assistant is an exciting career; it is a perfect mix of traditional office work and hands-on clinical tasks. You will be able to find a work environment that fits your personality. You can work in a private physician’s office if you are a quieter type, or opt to help surgeons in surgical wards. Also, medical assistants can work across the country because they do not need to obtain a new license to practice in a different state.

Signs You Should Consider Becoming a Medical Assistant

Let’s face it, figuring out what career is right for you can be stressful and involves a lot of guesswork. You need to invest time, energy, and even money in the process of finding out the job that you love. You can talk to a career counselor or life coach, find out jobs that fit your personality type or take a career aptitude test. But the easiest way to know if medical assisting is the right career for you is by examining your traits and characteristics if it aligns with the job.

You should consider becoming a medical assistant if you possess these qualities, traits, and characteristics. 

You are good at interacting with people. 

You are naturally a warm person, friendly, and a people pleaser. Medical assistants are the frontline of doctors or physicians. They are the first person the patients see and talk to before their visit. Therefore, they should make the patient feel comfortable on their first visit. This career is not for a shy or withdrawn person.

Energetic. 

You are always active, enthusiastic, and excited about life. Medical assistants have a busy schedule; their day is packed with different tasks from office admin work, assisting with the preparation of the patients, to assisting doctors in their clinical tasks. Being energetic helps medical assistants to stay upbeat and be more productive.

You are exceptionally good at reading people.

You have an uncanny ability to read what people really feel and go through. Medical assistants need to obtain all the information that you need for the patient’s healthcare, and sometimes it is more than asking questions and hearing out the patient’s concern. Reading people also involves reading body language and facial expression.

You are not judgmental. 

Different people have different lifestyle choices and beliefs that vary from one another. Personal beliefs should not impact the healthcare of patients; thus, medical assistants should deal with patients for exactly who they are, without discriminating or judging them. The main focus should always be to provide top-notch possible care for their patients.    

You are compassionate. 

You are genuinely kind, caring, and willing to help people. Patients, along with their family members, may sometimes feel anxious or frightened concerning the medical condition. Medical assistants must make the patients and their family members feel that they are being understood and supported to ease anxiety and encourage them to feel calm regardless of the situation.

You are reliable. 

Your friends or family members see you as dependable. When you say that you will do something, you do it. In healthcare, medical assistants are expected to be reliable in their job duties. Patients and co-workers trust you to keep sensitive health information. You are also expected to come to work on time, and keep your word when it comes to following rules and protocol.

How Do You Become a Medical Assistant?

There are many different paths you can take if you want to pursue a career as a medical assistant, and the steps to becoming one are minimal compared with other careers. This is because aspiring medical assistants can pursue a career with no more than a high school diploma or GED. Here are the steps on how one can become a medical assistant:

1. Enroll in a medical assistant program or school  

Although employers accept medical assistants with a high school diploma or GED, they still prefer those who have acquired official medical assistant training or a certification from an accredited program or school. These programs or schools should be accredited by:

  • The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). ABHES is a nationally-recognized accreditation agency in the U.S. specializing in the certification of specific health disciplines by providing health education programs to acquire associate degrees of certification (e.g., medical assistant.) 
  • The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP.) This organization is a programmatic postsecondary accrediting agency and the biggest accreditor of Health Science programs across 30 Health Science occupations in the U.S. 

Enrolling in accredited programs or schools is essential so that aspiring medical assistants can take a professional certification exam.

2. Choose the right program  

Aspiring medical assistants can either choose an associate degree diploma or certificate. Associate degrees may take two years to complete, and this is also preferable for those who want to pursue more education. On the other hand, the diploma or certificate might take one year or less. 

The programs must include an internship that tends to last for almost 12 months to provide students with practical experience in eligible hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities.

Also, below are the curriculum that is usually included in the medical assistant program:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical law and ethics
  • Psychology
  • Communications (oral and written)
  • Medical assisting and administrative procedures
  • Medical assisting clinical procedures

3. Obtain externship 

Students can start their externships at the beginning or the middle of their program. It usually lasts for a few days or a few weeks. The tasks included are shadowing, counseling, and learning other medical topics. This provides students a chance to work with experienced health care providers to get hands-on experience in patient care and other clinical or hospital settings.

4. Get certified

Most employers still prefer medical assistants who have obtained certifications. This proves that you are serious and dedicated to the medical assisting career.

There are several organizations that offer medical assistant certification. But according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, applicants must pass any of these five certification examinations that are also accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

  1. Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
  2. Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
  3. National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
  4. Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association
  5. Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association

5. Career Advancement 

After getting certified, if you want to move up the career ladder by gaining as much experience as you can as a medical assistant and a deeper understanding of the medical field that you are in, you can pursue career advancement. You may choose any of the specializations that you want, for example:

  • dermatology
  • gerontology
  • obstetrics
  • cardiology
  • pediatrics
  • plastic surgery
  • urology
  • allergy
  • endocrinology
  • gastroenterology
  • neurology
  • oncology
  • orthopedics
  • or podiatry

Then obtain specialized certification or training certificates. You can also find career advancement in the following areas:

  • Medical office manager
  • Transcription supervisor
  • Lead medical assistant
  • Healthcare administration
  • Clinical office manager
  • Executive medical office secretary
  • Clinical team leader
  • Medical records manager
  • Medical assistant instructor

What are the Knowledge and Skills Needed to be a Medical Assistant?

There are various skills and knowledge that a medical assistant must possess since they need to fulfill the responsibilities both in administrative tasks and clinical tasks. Here are the most common skills:

Organizational skills

Being highly-organized is important in the role of medical assistants to fulfill both their front- and back-duties from scheduling appointments to laboratory testing. They ensure that the office or clinic is organized and running smoothly, update patient’s files before and after the visit, schedules patient’s appointments, and document medical records among other tasks that need organizational skills.

Communication skills

Communication is an essential skill a medical assistant should master. Verbal communication is used to convey the information to the patient clearly, accurately, appropriately, and honestly. It is also important to pay attention to the tone of your voice. Some patients are sensitive and might feel that you are impatient or rushing. The best approach when communicating with patients is to remain calm. This way, you can keep control of any situation.

Medical skills

You should have knowledge of basic medical terminologies as well as basic non-surgical medical procedures like CPR, drawing blood, dressing a wound, patient’s physical examination, giving injections, getting urine samples, and administering medication. However, this should all be done under the direction of a doctor or physician. 

Office skills

Office skills or administrative skills are related to keeping an office or business organized. Medical assistants are handling patient’s concerns and information, scheduling appointments, and handling billing. They must also be comfortable using computers to help them perform their tasks.

Customer service

Medical assistants deal with patients on a daily basis. They are usually the first and last person that the patient talks to when visiting a doctor or physician. Thus, you need to offer your patients outstanding customer service by being attentive to them, being calm all the time, having patience, and maintaining a positive attitude. 

There are hundreds or even thousands of schools in the U.S. that are offering medical assisting programs, making it hard to make the right decision. In choosing a school and the right medical assisting program, you must bear in mind that you are investing time, effort, and money. Therefore, you must choose a school that will have the best return on investment (ROI). Here is a list of best medical assisting programs to help you with your decision. 

Top 5 well-established medical assisting programs

  • Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College
  • Bryant & Stratton College
  • Kaplan College
  • Globe University
  • Pima Medical Institute

Top 50 affordable medical assisting schools

  • Pima Community College
  • Haywood Community College
  • Stanly Community College
  • Davidson County Community College
  • Eastern Idaho Technical College
  • El Paso Community College
  • Alamance Community College
  • Craven Community College
  • Wayne Community College
  • Palm Beach State College
  • Southeast Community College
  • Pensacola State College
  • West Virginia Northern Community College
  • Wichita Area Technical College
  • Front Range Community College
  • Daytona State College
  • Delaware Technical and Community College
  • Great Falls College
  • Lone Star College
  • Bossier Parish Community College
  • Kennebec Valley Community College
  • H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College
  • Bluegrass Community and Technical College
  • Ivy Tech Community College
  • Everett Community College
  • Red Rocks Community College
  • Cleveland State Community College
  • Olympic College
  • Clackamas Community College
  • Norwalk Community College
  • Chippewa Valley Technical College
  • Kirkwood Community College
  • Chattanooga State Community College
  • Blackhawk Technical College
  • Lakeland Community College
  • Fox Valley Technical College
  • Houston Community College
  • Jefferson Community and Technical College
  • Macomb Community College
  • Aiken Technical College
  • Greenville Technical College
  • Middlesex Community College
  • Belmont College
  • Stark State College
  • Spartanburg Community College
  • Clark College
  • Highland Community College
  • Quinsigamond Community College
  • Flathead Valley Community College
  • Cincinnati State and Technical Community College
pretty-female-doctor-and-assistant-explaining-sickness

How to Get a Job as a Medical Assistant

Job hunting can be tough for new graduates and even for experienced professionals. To get you started with your job hunting., here are some tips for nailing your medical assistant job application.

Start building your connections during externship.

Most medical assistant training programs will provide internships to students. This is so that they will obtain hands-on experience as a medical assistant before they have even completed the training program. Gaining experience is one benefit of externship, but another benefit that one can gain is building a set of connections with colleagues. If you enjoyed working as a medical assistant, you could inquire with your colleagues for vacancies, and they might even help you get through. Also, if you perform well during their externship, there will be a chance that you will get absorbed and work with the business where you had the externship after completing the training program.

Search medical assistant jobs online.

Nowadays, you can easily find a job online. Here are some of the job search engine sites and websites with the medical assistant job category.

Check job listings in your area

Check newspapers for job listings, and phone books or search online for businesses such as local hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, and any other healthcare clinics that are within your area. Then check if they have a vacant position for medical assistant.

Learn About Geographic and Location Pay Differentials

Geographic areas often have location pay differentials, making a significant impact on your potential earnings. Some states offer a higher salary and some offer a lower wage for medical assistants. 

Here’s a list of the average mean of annual revenues of Medical Assistants in every state according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics dated 2018:

State2018 Mean Annual Wage
Alaska$45,490
Washington$41,340
Minnesota$40,320
Massachusetts$40,270
Connecticut$38,350
Oregon$38,260
California$38,250
Hawaii$38,040
Vermont$37,740
New York$37,560
New Hampshire$36,730
North Dakota$36,560
Wisconsin$36,410
Maryland$36,350
Colorado$36,180
Illinois$35,910
New Jersey$35,840
Rhode Island$35,830
Maine$35,160
Virginia$35,010
Iowa$34,990
Nebraska$34,670
Montana$34,520
Wyoming$33,830
Nevada$33,610
State2018 Mean Annual Wage
Idaho$33,540
Arizona$33,410
Delaware$33,350
Utah$33,000
Florida$32,870
Pennsylvania$32,770
North Carolina$32,710
Indiana$32,580
Michigan$32,540
Tennessee$32,370
Missouri$32,260
South Carolina$32,120
Georgia$32,060
Kentucky$31,900
Ohio$31,900
Texas$31,580
Kansas$31,400
Oklahoma$30,960
New Mexico$30,750
Mississippi$30,470
Arkansas$30,320
South Dakota$29,890
Louisiana$28,740
Alabama$28,460
West Virginia$28,160

Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Make Your Resume Stand Out

A well-polished resume is vital for a successful job search. It is the first thing an employer review before qualifying you for an interview. Below are some tips on how to make your resume stand out.

1. Write a killer resume objective

A resume objective is a short paragraph (about 2-3 sentences) outlining your career goal while positioning yourself to be the candidate the employer is looking for. Thus, it should be tailored specifically for the position and company you are applying for. You can include your best qualification or certification, your work experience, best qualities that you have as a medical assistant.

2. Highlight your professional certifications

Although medical assistants don’t need to be licensed to work in a particular state, it does not mean that you should not obtain one and get a proper education. Most employers prefer candidates to have one or a few professional certifications not only because it shows how committed candidates are in the chosen career but to prove that they know enough to perform the job and your excellence in the field.

The relevant certificate should be highlighted by placing it on your resume objective and should be on the top of your list in the training and certification section of your resume. Having certification/s will increase your chances of getting hired and makes you become a competitive candidate because it shows that you take the career seriously in providing quality care for patients. 

3. Showcase your medical assistant skills

The skill section of your resume should be used to emphasize the important skills that you possess as a medical assistant. Tailor the skill section to match the requirements listed in the job posting because this will give you a chance of being selected for an interview. Employers are using automated applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan all the applications they are receiving. This program helps search specific keywords in a resume such as those in skills, e.g., computer skills, organizational skills, etc. The more you use matched keywords from the job description, the more your resume will be selected.

4. Proofread

Before you submit your resume, you should take the time to proofread it. Incorrect spelling and typo errors can sabotage the chances of you getting a job. A well-written resume can give you a head above the competition.

There are also online courses that can help you create a resume that will increase your chance of landing a job, like “Create The Ultimate Resume Package To Stand Out” online course by Skill Success. This online course promises that you learn how to write a resume that will stand out.

Ace Your Medical Assistant Interview

Taking time to prepare for an interview beforehand will help you become more relaxed and more in control. Below are a few common interview questions and tips on how to answer them.

1. Tell me about yourself. 

This question is an open-ended question that is usually asked at the beginning of the interview. To help you plan your answer, you need to stay focused on the professional skills that you can bring to the table. A tip here is to connect your skills to the job description and support it with examples and highlight your positive characteristics like how optimistic you are.

2. Tell me how much experience do you have as a medical assistant? 

To answer this question, simply tell them where you have worked and how many years you have worked as a medical assistant. If you are new in the field, you can tell them how many hours you have worked in your internship or volunteer work. You can also describe the work setting and your job responsibilities. Include the recognition and promotions you have received to add a wow factor as well.

3. Why do you want to work here? 

This is an important question for hiring managers, and it’s not because they want to boost their egos. They ask this question to see how well you are going to fit in with their company, and they want to understand your motivation and career goals. To come up with an answer to this question, you must be genuinely interested in the job. You should also perform some background research about the company. You should be familiar with the company’s mission and vision, its products or services, their accomplishments, and the latest news.

4. How do you handle stress? 

Stress at work is unavoidable, especially for medical assistants, since they need to perform both admin tasks and clinical tasks. Also, we have different ways of handling stress. A way you can answer this question is to demonstrate what you do to avoid being stress at work, and these are:

  • Prioritizing your workload by identifying urgent and important tasks
  • Arriving to work early to review scheduled patients’ charts and check the equipment in the clinic are working properly
  • Avoiding procrastination
  • Structuring your workday productively 

5. Why are you the best candidate for this position? 

You don’t have to sound arrogant or conceited in answering this question. The interviewer wants to know if you are the right candidate they are looking for. You can answer this question by emphasizing the training and experiences that you think will be valuable to their company. You can also increase the chances of you getting hired by sharing examples of your achievements. 

Top Online Courses for Aspiring Medical Assistants

Sharpen your skills in medical assisting by taking these top online courses

Skills Success has carefully curated and organized thousands of online video courses. Start your journey to becoming a medical assistant with these top online courses.

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