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Medical Assistant Jobs and Career Preparation

Updated on November 30, 2009

The medical assistant field entails both clinical and administrative tasks that are crucial to the everyday function of a primary or specialized care doctor’s office.  It is estimated that 62 percent of today’s medical assistants work in a physician’s office type of setting.  You can however, find medical assistant jobs in all kinds of medical institutions including private and public hospitals, or assisted living facilities.   Most medical assistants receive most of their training while on the job but many positions require that a candidate is at least certified prior to employment.  Some positions may however require an associate’s degree. 

Certification can easily be attained at a community or junior college.  Some vocational and technical schools also offer training that can be accomplished in about a twelve month period.  Associate’s degree in medical assisting can usually be completed in about a two year time frame.  Some employers will offer you a job as long as you at the certification level and assist in helping you pay for the additional schooling that is required to get you to the associate’s level.

Choosing a Medical Assistant School

Most medical assistant schools are legitimate and offer students a fair chance at receiving the training and education that is needed to succeed in the field of medical office assistant.  You will however need to double check with your states certification board to determine which school and program is accepted by your state board.  Some states accept any type of education program while others have strict regulations and require that you get your training from a state certified institution. 

Most medical assistant programs cover courses in medical terminology, physiology, anatomy, typing, recordkeeping, transcription, insurance processing, and accounting.  Students also learn basic laboratory, diagnostic, and clinical procedures including first aid, administration of medicine, and pharmaceutical principles.  All of these areas are equally important to maintaining a well functioning medical office including proper patient care, administration of records, insurance claims, and billing.

Medical assistant training programs can vary greatly depending on the school and some even go into in depth training of proper office practices, patient relations, ethics, and especially medical law.  Even though some jobs require that you are formally trained in a medical office setting, many will look at your studies as a main determinant to your abilities so it is highly important to choose a recognizable program that is accredited and able to prepare you well for a new career path.

Medical Assistant Employment and Duties

Medical assistant jobs are abundant in today’s job market with many more openings expected to arise in the next five to ten years.  Medical assistant work should not be confused with certified nursing assistant or a physician’s assistant.  Even though the job of a certified medical assistant may vary from job to job and facility to facility, most will handle a majority of the clerical duties of an office rather than the clinical procedures required of a medical facility.  Clinical medical assistants are allowed to handle certain medical procedures but only procedures that are allowed by that state’s laws. 

In most medical office settings, medical assistants are in charge of greeting patients, answering phones, scheduling appointments, handling correspondence including billing, bookkeeping, and faxing.  Many offices also require that assistants help in preparing rooms for patients including cleaning, supplying, and maintaining of supplies and equipment.  Most are also expected to order supplies and equipment needed to maintain a well stocked and adequately functioning office.

Medical Assistant Salary and Career Outlook

The salary of a medical assistant will very greatly depending on the type of medical office and the experience or skill level of the assistant.  The pay ranges from around $22,000 to $31,000 per year.  Many assistants go on to take more education classes in order to become physician assistants in the future.  The level of pay goes up drastically but so do the duties including more medical procedures and direct patient care.  Medical assistant positions are most similar to medical secretaries, medical records and health information technicians, and medical transcribers. 

When searching for a job, make sure you read the job requirements and description of duties carefully prior to applying.  You definitely do not want to waste time applying for jobs in which you are under qualified or submit any of your personal information to just any job listing you run into.  If you are having trouble finding a job, enlist the help of an employment agency that handles medical staffing.  A good agency will help you find a job that you are well qualified for and one that fits your previous experience well.


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    • nikitha p profile image

      nikitha p 7 years ago from India

      very informative