What is 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. 

Learn more about what a Medical Assistant does

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.

What is the right job for my career path?

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

Average Salary
$34,553
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
23%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
202,579
Job Openings
resume document icon

Don't Have A Professional Resume?

0 selections

Medical Assistant Career Paths

Medical Assistant Jobs You Might Like

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 $34,553 per year or $17 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $43,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $27,000 per year.
Average Salary
$34,553
Find Your Salary Estimate
How much should you be earning as an Medical Assistant? Use Zippia's Salary Calculator to get an estimation of how much you should be earning.
See More Salary Information

Calculate your salary

Use Zippia's Salary Calculator to see how your pay matches up.

12 Medical Assistant Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Medical Assistant Resume

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

View Medical Assistant Resume Examples And Templates

Choose From 10+ Customizable Medical Assistant Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Medical Assistant templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Medical Assistant resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume
Medical Assistant Resume

Medical Assistant Demographics

Medical Assistant Gender Distribution

Male
Male
10%
Female
Female
90%

After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among Medical Assistants, 89.6% of them are women, while 10.4% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among Medical Assistants is White, which makes up 54.4% of all Medical Assistants.

  • The most common foreign language among Medical Assistants is Spanish at 80.7%.

Job Openings

Find the best Medical Assistant job for you

0 selections
0 selections

Medical Assistant Jobs You Might Like

Medical Assistant Education

Medical Assistant Majors

8.3 %

Medical Assistant Degrees

Certificate

29.1 %

Associate

24.4 %

Diploma

23.2 %
Job Openings

Find the best Medical Assistant job for you

0 selections
0 selections

Medical Assistant Jobs You Might Like

Online Courses For Medical Assistant That You May Like

Medical Terminology
udemy
4.6
(1,169)

Introduction to the meaning of various roots, terms and combining forms that are components of medical words...

Medical Cannabis for Pain Control
coursera

Cannabis is a group of flowering plants that has been long used for industrial, recreational and medical purposes. When relating to its medical use, the terms "Medical Cannabis" or "Medical marijuana" has become prevalent. In this course we will use the term "Medical Cannabis". Nowadays, Medical Cannabis involves multiple medical disciplines such as neuroscience, pain, pharmacology, oncology, psychiatry and more. Moreover, it has cultural, agricultural and social, legal and political implication...

Medical Coding: ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code Training
udemy
4
(560)

Learn medical coding and prepare yourself for today's healthcare workplace...

Show More Medical Assistant Courses
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 Vermont, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon. Medical Assistants make the most in Vermont with an average salary of $46,895. Whereas in Washington and Alaska, they would average $44,716 and $44,376, respectively. While Medical Assistants would only make an average of $42,457 in Oregon, 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. Washington

Total Medical Assistant Jobs:
2,682
Highest 10% Earn:
$54,000
Location Quotient:
1.29
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:
612
Highest 10% Earn:
$47,000
Location Quotient:
1.62
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. Vermont

Total Medical Assistant Jobs:
196
Highest 10% Earn:
$56,000
Location Quotient:
0.9
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
Full List Of Best States For Medical Assistants

How Do Medical Assistant Rate Their Jobs?

Working as a Medical Assistant? Share your experience anonymously.
Do you work as a Medical Assistant?
Rate how you like work as Medical Assistant. It's anonymous and will only take a minute.

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 Kaiser Permanente was the best, especially with an average salary of $35,022. Concentra follows up with an average salary of $35,344, and then comes Planned Parenthood with an average of $36,031. 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 Cigna, Sutter Health, and DaVita

Medical Assistant Videos

Becoming a Medical Assistant FAQs

Do medical assistants get paid well?

Yes, medical assistants get paid well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, medical assistants earned an average salary of $36,930 per year ($17.75 per hour). The range of income varies by location and time spent in the position. Salaries reported for medical assistants range between $29,000 - $50,000

The demand and salary for medical assistants have only become stronger. Some programs to become a medical assistant only last six weeks and lead to secure employment; other programs like an Associates's Degree may take up to two years.

There are both clinical medical assistants working alongside physicians or nurses and administrative medical assistants working at the front end in the office focusing on billing or office work.

How long does it take to become a certified medical assistant?

It can take from six weeks to two years to become a certified medical assistant, depending on the type of certification. The shortest medical assistant programs are only six weeks to three months long and offer a Medical Assistant Certificate or a certificate in Medical Billing and Coding.

Two years is the standard for an Associate of Science Degree, which leads to a Certification in Medical Assistance (CMA). Accelerated programs as fast as nine or ten months can also lead to this certification after passing the necessary exam.

The CMA is considered the highest standard and will take the longest to achieve. After graduating from a medical assisting program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), you can take a test through the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants.

This credential must be recertified every 60 months by examination or continuing education.

The CMA Certification exam is a rigorous test that requires a broad and current understanding of healthcare delivery. The certification becomes a matter of public record but is not required.

Increasingly employers are looking for this certification. Through certification, you become more employable, have more job and shift choices, get paid better, and will have demonstrated that you are dedicated to professional excellence.

Is a medical assistant better than CNA?

A medical assistant may be a better job than a CNA based on your personality. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) positions are more limited in the scope of their work; the focus of a CNA is helping with basic care in hospitals or nursing homes.

Medical Assistants (MA) may work in various clinical settings, labs, or hospitals where they work with patients, assist physicians, but MAs also work in billing, coding, or other administrative positions.

The work for an MA is typically more detail-oriented and analytical, whereas the role of CNAs provides direct care and needs to have strong communication skills and physical stamina.

CNAs deal directly with cleaning, bathing, and making patients comfortable; it is a hands-on job. CNAs require less training and typically earn less, while MAs have more choices on where they want to work, which shifts they prefer, and what they do.

While both CNAs and MAs are experiencing job growth, MAs job growth is at 19%, faster than the national average. MAs tend to have more professional opportunities for advancement, and they aren't required to be certified. The median salary, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics in 2020 for MAs, was $35,850 and for CNAs was $30,830.

Is being a medical assistant hard?

No, being a medical assistant is not hard if you are ready to be busy and care for patients. A medical assistant is considered a low-level entry position into the medical field.

It is not as hard to become a medical assistant as it is to become a doctor or nurse. However, as in any field in healthcare, there are rules, regulations, and serious responsibilities.

Medical assistant work is entry-level work in the medical field and can serve in either administrative roles, clinical roles, or both. A grade of C average can get you enrolled into a program for medical assisting.

There are short six weeks courses that can lead to basic certification for smaller roles in the field, or you can go through a two-year program and take a certification exam which gives you the strongest credentials to enter the field as a medical assistant.

As a medical assistant, the options for what you can do are endless. You can work in a variety of clinics, physician's offices, hospitals, outpatient facilities, and specialists' offices. You can work full-time or part-time and find various shifts to fit your schedule.

What is the first step to becoming a medical assistant?

The first step to becoming a medical assistant is to find the right program that works for your budget and time frame. You'll need a high school diploma or GED to get started.

Some physicians will hire you and provide on-site training, but most medical assistants go through a formal training program. Shorter programs may take less than six months, whereas an Associates Degree for Medical Assistants will typically take two years.

There are different ways medical assistant training can be achieved. There are online programs and hybrid programs with both clinical classes. The longer a program is designed to take, the more upfront costs.

Medical assistants can choose from different certifications, which leads to more pay and responsibilities. Medical assistants can work in physician's offices, specialty clinics, hospitals, or labs. Some medical assistants may choose to only do administrative work.

Search For Medical Assistant Jobs

0 selections
0 selections