This section gives you a job overview of medical assistant careers. Medical assistants are the backbone of any medical office.
Medical Assistant Careers
Clinical Medical Assistants
Clinical medical assistants perform tasks in a clinical setting. Some clinical assistants are responsible for recording patients’ medical histories, getting patients ready for examinations, and providing general assistance to the doctor during the examinations. In this role, you might talk patients through their procedures and reassure them. You might retrieve laboratory specimens, call in pharmacy orders, or handle the sterilization process for medical equipment and instruments. Other responsibilities might include removing surgical sutures, drawing a patient’s blood, and administering EKG’s.
Specialized Medical Assistants
Sometimes medical assistants choose a particular field as a specialty. For example, a specialized medical assistant may work in the specialty of ophthalmology. In this role, you would work closely with the ophthalmologist in assessing the health of patients’ eyes and reassuring patients as they prepare for eye surgery. A pediatric medical assistant would work with young patients and help doctors with any special needs that children may have when they visit the doctor’s office. Some medical assistants like to specialize in lab work. Medical lab assistants work with lab equipment to process laboratory specimens.
Clerical Medical Assistants
Clerical medical assistants are responsible for keeping a medical office running smoothly and efficiently. Tasks might include making appointments, handling phone calls, welcoming patients, organizing mail, and helping doctors with their paperwork or electronic records.
Administrative Medical Assistants
Administrative medical assistants are similar to clerical medical assistants, but in addition to the clerical tasks, they also perform functions related to the patients’ medical needs. In this type of job, you might be responsible for updating patient files, handling medical claim forms, working on hospital admissions processes, or scheduling medical tests. Your job might even include bookkeeping or billing procedures.
Medical Assistants can work in many different environments. You can find medical assistant careers in:
- General hospitals
- Surgical hospitals
- Outpatient centers
- Physicians’ offices
- Universities, colleges, and professional schools
- Other healthcare facilities
Details on the job outlook for medical assistant careers can be found in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.
According to this handbook, employment of medical assistants is expected to grow by 23 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The handbook explains, “The growth of the aging baby-boom population will continue to spur demand for preventive medical services, which are often provided by physicians. As their practices expand, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians to see more patients.”
Opportunities for employment are projected to be excellent, especially for medical assistants with experience, certification, or formal on-the-job experience.
With advances in medicine and technology, people are living longer. With the growth of the population and the aging of the people in this country, the healthcare industry is expanding to serve more and more patients. This trend means the need for healthcare workers will grow.
The business side of medicine is changing too, with mergers and partnerships resulting in larger healthcare practices and facilities. These larger facilities need more support personnel to help them run smoothly, especially medical assistants who perform both clinical and administrative tasks.
One of the sectors of the healthcare economy that has been growing steadily is the primary care field. This field is where most medical assistants work, so the growth of primary care facilities is good for the medical assistant job outlook. As new jobs and opportunities for medical assistants are created, there will be a need for workers to replace those who have left their positions.
While the job outlook for all medical assistant careers is expected to be excellent, the medical assistants who have formal training, experience, and certification will have the best opportunities.
Earnings/Salary of Medical Assistants
The salaries of medical assistants across the country differ based on the employees’ years of experience, level of skills, and geographic location. Medical assistants with certification and experience often have better job opportunities and job security than those without certification. Entry-level medical assistants typically earn less than more experienced ones. But as you gain more on-the-job experience and perform satisfactorily in your job, you can expect your salary to increase over time. More details on salary trends among medical assistants can be found in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Salaries by Industry: The salaries of medical assistants can vary based on the particular medical industry where the medical assistant works. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics describes the average medical assistant salaries, broken down by the medical industry. Some of the industrial areas are shown below:
- Hospitals, clinics, medical offices
- Substance abuse and psychiatric hospitals
- Dentist offices
- Research and development services
- Insurance agencies, insurance brokerages, and other related activities
- Insurance carriers
Location: The salaries of medical assistants vary a great deal based on geographic area. A report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down the average salaries of medical assistants by state and shows the differences in annual salaries.
Medical Assistant Certifications
Graduates of the Medical Assistant program offered at American College for Medical Careers can take the Medical Assistant (NCMA) Certification examination provided by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). The NCMA is a nationally recognized voluntary certification that could enhance employment opportunities. The Medical Assisting program has been designed to cover the materials necessary to prepare graduates for the NCMA credentialing examinations. Individual success on the examination will be dependent upon the graduate, and the College does not guarantee that graduates will pass the exam.
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