Is a Medical Assistant Job Right For You?

Medical Assistant numbers are on the rise in an extremely fast growing industry, making it an good career option to consider.

Nature of the Work

Medical assistants perform admin and clinical tasks to keep the offices of physicians, chiropractors, podiatrists, and other health care providers running smoothly.

About two thirds of those employed work in doctors' offices, 12 percent in hospitals,and 11 percent worked in offices of other health practitioners, such as chiropractors, optometrists, and podiatrists. Most of the rest work in outpatient care centers and nursing and residential care facilities.

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 care provider. In large practices they tend to specialize in a particular area under the supervision of department administrators.

Medical-assistants have many duties. They update and file patients’ medical records, fill out insurance forms, and arrange for hospital admissions and laboratory services. They also answer telephones, greet patients, handle correspondence, schedule appointments, and do billing and bookkeeping. They may also arrange examining room instruments and equipment, purchase and maintain supplies and equipment, and keep waiting and examining rooms tidy.

Most full-time medical-assistants work a regular 40-hour week. However, many medical-assistants work part time, evenings, or weekends.

Medical Assistant Training and Education

Employers tend to prefer workers who are certified, although some are simply trained on the job. Medical assisting programs are offered in community and junior colleges and usually last either 1 year and award a certificate or diploma, or 2 years and award an associate degree.

Coursework covers anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology, as well as word processing, transcription, accounting, record keeping, and insurance processing. Students also learn laboratory techniques, clinical and diagnostic procedures, pharmaceutical principles, the administration of medications, and first aid.

Look for accredited programs, which often include an internship which provides practical experience in doctor offices, hospitals, or other health care facilities.

Opportunity for Advancement

With experience or additional training, medical billing assistants may advance to other occupations such as nurses or other health care workers. Administrative medical-billing assistants may advance to office manager, or another of a number of administrative support occupations.

Salary/Earnings Potential

According to the latest information available from the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of medical-billing assistants were:

  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $32,910
  • Outpatient Care Centers $32,200
  • Physician's Office $31,230
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners $28,040
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $32,910
  • Employment Services $31,620
› Medical Assistant

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