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Working as a Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are in charge of administrative and clinical tasks in their day-to-day duties. Typically, they'll work in hospitals, physician's offices, and other healthcare facilities.

If you want to become a medical assistant, you'll most likely need some type of post-secondary education. Although, there are some people who are able to secure the job with a high school diploma and just learn on-the-job, it's rare.

Whatever education you decide to go with, you should be prepared for a wonky schedule in your new profession. While medical assistants work full-time, their shifts vary from 8-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts, so you may only have to work 3-4 days a week, but the days you're off will surely be spent catching up on sleep.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice. 

Duties

Medical assistants typically do the following:

  • Record patient history and personal information
  • Measure vital signs, such as blood pressure
  • Help the physician with patient examinations
  • Give patients injections or medications as directed by the physician and as permitted by state law
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Prepare blood samples for laboratory tests
  • Enter patient information into medical records

Medical assistants take and record patients’ personal information. They must be able to keep that information confidential and discuss it only with other medical personnel who are involved in treating the patient.

Electronic health records (EHRs) are changing some medical assistants’ jobs. More and more physicians are adopting EHRs, moving all their patient information from paper to electronic records. Assistants need to learn the EHR software that their office uses.

Medical assistants should not be confused with physician assistants, who examine, diagnose, and treat patients under a physician’s supervision.

In larger practices or hospitals, medical assistants may specialize in either administrative or clinical work.

Administrative medical assistants often fill out insurance forms or code patients’ medical information. They often answer telephones and schedule patient appointments.

Clinical medical assistants have different duties, depending on the state where they work. They may do basic laboratory tests, dispose of contaminated supplies, and sterilize medical instruments. They may have additional responsibilities, such as instructing patients about medication or special diets, preparing patients for x rays, removing stitches, drawing blood, or changing dressings.

Some medical assistants specialize according to the type of medical office where they work. The following are examples of specialized medical assistants:

Ophthalmic medical assistants and optometric assistants help ophthalmologists and optometrists, respectively, provide eye care. They show patients how to insert, remove, and care for contact lenses. Ophthalmic medical assistants also may help an ophthalmologist in surgery.

Podiatric medical assistants work closely with podiatrists (foot doctors). They may make castings of feet, expose and develop x rays, and help podiatrists in surgery.

How To Become a Medical Assistant

Most medical assistants have postsecondary education such as a certificate. Others enter the occupation with a high school diploma and learn through on-the-job training.

Education

Medical assistants typically graduate from postsecondary education programs. Although there are no formal educational requirements for becoming a medical assistant in most states, employers may prefer to hire assistants who have completed these programs.

Programs for medical assisting are available from community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and universities and take about 1 year to complete. These programs usually lead to a certificate or diploma. Some community colleges offer 2-year programs that lead to an associate’s degree. All programs have classroom and laboratory portions that include lessons in anatomy and medical terminology.

Some medical assistants have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn their duties on the job. High school students interested in a career as a medical assistant should take courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Medical assistants must be able to understand and follow medical charts and diagnoses. They may be required to code a patient’s medical records for billing purposes.

Detail oriented. Medical assistants need to be precise when taking vital signs or recording patient information. Physicians and insurance companies rely on accurate records.

Interpersonal skills. Medical assistants need to be able to discuss patient information with other medical personnel, such as physicians. They often interact with patients who may be in pain or in distress, so they need to be able to act in a calm and professional manner.

Technical skills. Medical assistants should be able to use basic clinical instruments so they can take a patient’s vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure.

Training

Medical assistants who do not have postsecondary education learn their skills through on-the-job training. Physicians or other medical assistants may teach a new assistant medical terminology, the names of the instruments, how to do daily tasks, how to interact with patients, and other tasks that help keep an office running smoothly. Medical assistants also learn how to code both paper and electronic health records (EHRs) and how to record patient information. It can take several months for an assistant to complete training, depending on the facility.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Medical assistants are not required to be certified in most states. However, employers prefer to hire certified assistants.

Several organizations offer certification. An applicant must pass an exam and have taken one of several routes to be eligible for each certification. These routes include graduation from an accredited program and work experience, among others. In most cases, an applicant must be at least 18 years old before applying for certification.

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, accredits five certifications for medical assistants:

  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
  • National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association

Some states may require assistants to graduate from an accredited program, pass an exam, or both, in order to practice. Contact the state board of medicine for more information.

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Average Salary$33,747
Job Growth Rate23%

Medical Assistant Career Paths

Top Careers Before Medical Assistant

Cashier
13.4 %

Top Careers After Medical Assistant

Cashier
9.0 %

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Medical Assistant

Medical Assistants in America make an average salary of $33,747 per year or $16 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $41,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $27,000 per year.
Average Salary
$33,747

Best Paying Cities

City
Average Salary
Vancouver, WA
Salary Range35k - 45k$40k$39,910
Minneapolis, MN
Salary Range33k - 43k$38k$38,217
Portland, OR
Salary Range33k - 42k$38k$38,070
Portland, ME
Salary Range32k - 42k$37k$37,001
Washington, DC
Salary Range30k - 43k$36k$36,210
Providence, RI
Salary Range29k - 41k$35k$35,426
$25k
$45k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Medical Assistant
Medical Assistant
Hirelevel.
Hirelevel.
01/31/2021
01/31/2021
$25,04401/31/2021
$25,044
Medical Assistant
Medical Assistant
Hirelevel.
Hirelevel.
01/31/2021
01/31/2021
$62,61001/31/2021
$62,610
Medical Assistant
Medical Assistant
Wagner Community Memorial Hospital
Wagner Community Memorial Hospital
01/31/2021
01/31/2021
$41,74001/31/2021
$41,740
Medical Assistant/Admit Worker-Laguna Hills Multispecialty-Days
Medical Assistant/Admit Worker-Laguna Hills Multispecialty-Days
University of California Berkeley
University of California Berkeley
01/30/2021
01/30/2021
$42,70001/30/2021
$42,700
Centura Health
Medical Assistant
Medical Assistant
Centura Health
Centura Health
01/30/2021
01/30/2021
$28,09101/30/2021
$28,091
See More Recent Salaries

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Medical Assistant Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Medical Assistant. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Medical Assistant Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Medical Assistant resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

Medical Assistant Demographics

Gender

female

84.0 %

male

12.1 %

unknown

3.9 %

Ethnicity

White

50.2 %

Hispanic or Latino

28.4 %

Black or African American

10.4 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

80.7 %

French

3.0 %

Portuguese

1.9 %
See More Demographics

Medical Assistant Education

Degrees

Associate

26.3 %

Certificate

23.4 %

Diploma

23.1 %
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Medical Assistant

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 20.2% of medical assistants listed patient care on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and detail oriented are important as well.

Best States For a Medical Assistant

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a medical assistant. The best states for people in this position are Alaska, Vermont, Washington, and Minnesota. Medical assistants make the most in Alaska with an average salary of $46,678. Whereas in Vermont and Washington, they would average $39,950 and $39,221, respectively. While medical assistants would only make an average of $38,202 in Minnesota, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Alaska

Total Medical Assistant Jobs:
106
Highest 10% Earn:
$53,000
Location Quotient:
2.13
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Maine

Total Medical Assistant Jobs:
236
Highest 10% Earn:
$47,000
Location Quotient:
2.18
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Washington

Total Medical Assistant Jobs:
1,006
Highest 10% Earn:
$48,000
Location Quotient:
1.26
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Medical Assistant Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ medical assistants and discovered their number of medical assistant opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Overlake Internal Medicine Associates was the best, especially with an average salary of $34,966. Kaiser Permanente follows up with an average salary of $37,297, and then comes Concentra with an average of $35,424. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a medical assistant. The employers include Henry Ford Health System, Atrius Health, and Bon Secours Health System

1. Overlake Internal Medicine Associates
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$34,966
Medical Assistants Hired: 
1,729+
2. Kaiser Permanente
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$37,297
Medical Assistants Hired: 
1,554+
3. Concentra
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$35,424
Medical Assistants Hired: 
1,037+
4. Planned Parenthood
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$31,947
Medical Assistants Hired: 
942+
5. The Doctors Company
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$33,104
Medical Assistants Hired: 
689+
6. The Family Health Centers - Asheville
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$35,529
Medical Assistants Hired: 
603+

Medical Assistant Videos

Updated October 2, 2020