Medical Assistant Jobs

There were about 480,000 medical assistant jobs in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Approximately 62% of those jobs were in doctor’s offices, another 13% in hospital settings, and 11% in other healthcare offices, such as those of optometrists or chiropractors. The medical assistant job field will be a great one for the foreseeable future, as exceptional job growth is the prediction.

What is the job of a medical assistant?

A medical assistant usually performs a variety of duties in any day. The specific duties will vary according to the type of office. In a small office, a medical assistant will collect a patient’s medical history, record vital signs, prepare patients for examinations, and assist the doctor during the exams. They also collect lab specimens, clean and sterilize equipment, and perform basic laboratory tests. Explaining procedures, describing ways to improve health, and helping patients obtain prescriptions is one part of the job. Some medical assistants handle many front office duties, such as signing patients in, answering phones, scheduling, billing, and handling correspondence. Updating patient records and filing insurance paperwork is also a vital part of the job. Another important part is keeping the doctor’s schedule on track each day. In large practices, a medical assistant may specialize in a certain duty, such as collecting and examining specimens for laboratory tests or assisting the doctor with patients.

Medical assistant jobs should not be confused with physician assistant jobss (PAs) or the role of certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Those are different jobs with different qualifications and certifications.

What are the qualifications for the job?

Some medical assistants receive on the job training, but most attend a one- or two-year course of study. These courses are offered at vocational training schools, community colleges, and specific medical training facilities. Completing a one-year course brings you a certification and a two-year program ends with an Associate degree. The training will include classes, such as laboratory techniques, anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, first aid, transcription, recordkeeping, and insurance processing.

When choosing a school for your medical assistant training, it is critical that it be an accredited program. Two organizations award accreditation. The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) provides accreditation for schools. After graduation, you can test for Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). This certification is not required by law, but more employers are expecting you to be certified.

To receive your certification, you will be required to pass a test. More details on the test, how to register, what to study, and where to take it are available on the website of the American Association of Medical Assistants,

Personal characteristics that are essential for a medical assistant’s job are good people skills, an interest in science, meticulous work habits, and an ability to keep medical information confidential.

What is the work environment?

Medical assistants work primarily in medical offices. The jobs can be found in most any medical specialty—pediatrics, family practice, obstetrics, surgical, orthopedics, ophthalmologists, and many others. Most jobs are Monday through Friday with business hours, but some medical assistants work evenings and weekends.

What are the job outlook and the chance of advancement?

As the healthcare industry continues to expand, the job outlook for medical assistants grows. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics picked medical assistant as one of the fastest growing jobs through 2018, showing a job growth rate of 34%.

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Last Updated: 05/22/2014