Medical assistants can be found working in a variety of health care offices and facilities. The tasks they perform are vital to the successful operation of doctors offices, clinics, hospitals, and many other healthcare practices. They have numerous job responsibilities, both clinical and administrative, enabling medical offices to run smoothly. The breadth of duties assigned to assistants mean that no two days are the same. One day may involve answering phones and scheduling appointments while the next day sees a flurry of laboratory preparations and patient examinations.
National Average Medical Assistant Salary
Hourly Wage Annual Wage
Upper: $20.56 $42,760
Median: $14.41 $29,960
Lower: $10.36 $21,540
States With Highest Salary
State Avg. Hourly Wage Avg. Annual Wage
- District of Columbia $19.16 $39,860
- Alaska $19.08 $39,680
- Massachusetts $18.09 $37,640
- Washington $17.24 $35,850
- Connecticut $17.00 $35,360
*All statistical data is from the U.S. Department of Labor and is updated quarterly
Medical assistants perform a great variety of tasks within different types of healthcare facilities. Most commonly they can be found performing basic administrative and clinical tasks that are essential for running a medical office.
Job duties vary by office, specialization, and state. The administrative responsibilities are common across all categories, but clinical tasks are contingent upon state law and the assistant’s education and specialization, if applicable.
Responsibilities may include:
- Taking the vital signs of patients
- Assisting physicians with examinations
- Preparing blood for laboratory tests
- Administering injections
- Recording patient history
- Answering phones
- Scheduling appointments
- Taking x-rays
- Taking blood samples from patients
- Dressing wounds
- Ordering prescriptions
- Taking EKGs
Whether associated with hospitals, general practitioners, or outpatient centers, medical assistants work in fast-paced environments, so they must be able to multitask. Most assistants work forty hours a week, and some work weekends and nights at facilities that are open constantly.
Though medical equipment varies from office to office, assistants should be familiar with the standard equipment used to take a patient’s vital signs. Assistants who choose a specialization will need to know the standard equipment associated with their particular practice. To keep their environments clean and safe, medical assistants must follow standard medical hygiene practices, disinfecting examination rooms and equipment properly and disposing of medical waste correctly.
How To Become A Medical Assistant:
Medical Assistant Schools:
The educational requirements for becoming a medical assistant vary by state. Most states do not have any requirements at all, though some states require certification for medical assistants performing advanced procedures such as administering intravenous drugs or taking x-rays.
Although some individuals are hired as medical assistants with only a high school diploma or GED, receiving on-the-job training, many employers are more likely to hire someone who has completed an accredited training program.
For individuals who choose to go to school for this profession, the most common path is a certification program. Such programs will usually take about one year to complete and will lead to certification as a medical assistant. Some schools offer two-year programs that lead to an Associates degree. Medical assistant programs can commonly be found in vocational schools, community colleges, and technical institutes,
Medical assistant programs will include instruction in both the classroom and laboratory, some also incorporating an internship as part of the training. Programs will instruct students in such areas as medical terminology, physiology, and anatomy. They will also prepare students to take any certification exams required.
Medical Assistant Certification:
Although certification is not required to hold a position as a medical assistant, becoming a certified medical assistant will greatly improve the chances of finding employment. in some states it is necessary to attain certification to perform certain specialized tasks such as taking x-rays or administering IV drugs.
There are several different organizations that will certify someone as a medical assistant. The requirements for certification vary, one organization may require the successful completion of an accredited training program while another only requires the passing of an exam.
Who Should Become a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistant jobs are ideal for people who enjoy variety and work well under pressure. Successful medical assistants are often outgoing and comfortable completing a wide array of tasks.
Because medical assistants work in a people-oriented environment, excellent interpersonal skills are a necessity. Having the ability to communicate clearly is essential for conveying information to physicians and coworkers. In order to be able to effectively communicate with patients who are not only sick and in pain, but also apprehensive about visiting a physician requires sensitivity and empathy.
Technology governs modern medicine and is always changing as new advancements are made. A medical assistant must be not only be comfortable working with common equipment, but must be able to adapt to any changes that are made as the field advances. Learning new terminology that accompanies such advancements is also necessary.
Working as a medical assistant also requires precision and attention to detail; it is important that patients’ vital signs and information are recorded correctly. Above all, medical assistants must be comfortable working without the structure of a routine, realizing that every day will bring new challenges and tasks.
How Much Does A Dental Assistant Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median medical assistant salary is $31,220. Salaries can range from $21,540 for the bottom 10% of earners to $42,760 for those in the 90th percentile. The state with the highest average salary is the District of Columbia with an annual mean salary of $39,860. However, assistants who choose to specialize generally earn more. As with any career, there are many variables that will affect salary. The most common factors being location and experience.
Factors That Can Influence Salary:
Assistants working in hospitals and physician’s offices generally receive the highest salaries while those working in outpatient centers receive the lowest. Medical assistants earn the most in California and Alaska, which both offer salaries above the national average. Texas, Louisiana, and Florida generally offer salaries below the national average.
The skills necessary to be a successful medical assistant can lead to other careers in the medical field. Assistants looking to engage more in patient care can continue their education, becoming either a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse.
Assistants who enjoy performing office-related tasks can use their skills as a medical records technician, medical data assistant, or billing and coding specialist. A career as a medical assistant is a promising endeavor that can result in many opportunities for advancement.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for medical assistants is expected to be 23% from 2014 to 2024, well above the national average of 7% for all other careers. Like most other careers in the healthcare industry, medical assistants will benefit from aging baby boomers requiring increased medical care. A career as a medical assistant is a promising start in the healthcare field.
Medical Assistant Schools
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