Behind every great nurse or doctor is a hardworking medical assistant. Medical assistants (MAs) are some of the most dedicated healthcare professionals that fly under the radar of the public. They support the healthcare system by undertaking clinical AND administrative tasks. Answering phones, scheduling appointments, checking vital signs, help with the ventilator — these are some of their duties.
If you’ve always been interested in working in the medical field but are unsure of your starting point, consider medical assistant jobs. A career as an MA offers the right amount of training and challenge, as well as a stepping stone to greater rewards in your medical career.
When you take a medical assistant job, you’ll be directing patients, ensuring the smooth operations of a clinical and medical unit and bridging the gap between the administrative and clinical work of your office.
But before you Google “medical assistant jobs near me,” get to know the industry a little more. What’s a day like for a medical assistant? What are their jobs? Are they in demand? How much is the pay?
What Kind of Jobs Do Medical Assistants Do?
Although the career and training path of an MA is more focused on medical assisting, they can be cross-trained.
Each medical assistant’s job may differ according to several factors:
- The size of the healthcare facility
- Number of patients accommodated by the facility
- The location of the healthcare facility (rural vs. urban)
- The specialization of the facility and its physicians
In terms of medical assistant administrative jobs, the tasks include scheduling appointments, answering phone calls, welcoming patients, updating and keeping patient forms and medical records and helping patients fill out the necessary forms. Also, MAs fill out official forms using medical coding, as well as handle the bookkeeping, bills and possible correspondence.
If a patient is required to undergo laboratory tests or will be admitted to the hospital, the medical assistant will prepare their paperwork. Finally, if the healthcare center’s physicians use a certain computer application, medical assistants must learn its coding to handle digital record management and data entry.
On the other side of the spectrum, the clinical work of a medical assistant involves caring for the patient.
They may be tasked with the following:
- Interviewing the patient and completing their forms.
- Seeing the patient and orienting them about their visit. They also answer the patient’s questions regarding the attending physician, the treatment and the procedure.
- Preparing the examination room for the doctor before they bring in the patient.
- Taking the patient’s vital signs. This includes their heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate and body temperature.
- Educating patients about special dietary habits and medications they need to incorporate in their lives.
- Assist the attending physician during the examination of the patient. If the patient requires laboratory tests, the medical assistant’s jobs include performing electrocardiograms, drawing blood and collecting the stool or urine test.
Medical administrative jobs are the heart of every office. MAs ensure smooth processes between the patient and the healthcare workers. To stay on top of their duties, they must always be proactive and initiative.
Is Medical Assistant High in Demand?
There is a high demand for certified medical assistant jobs across the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth for MAs is 19 percent through 2029, which is faster compared to other job growth averages. The BLS suggests that there will be more than 135,000 new medical assistant jobs over the next decade.
So why is there a positive job outlook for medical assistants? Consider the following reasons:
- Chronic illnesses continue to be more prevalent. More than 130 million people are living with chronic diseases. As a result, chronic illnesses account for 86 percent of the country’s healthcare costs. Patients with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, bronchitis, asthma, arthritis, mental health disorders and more require frequent medical assistance and attention. Under the supervision of doctors, MAs can help patients manage their conditions and stay on track with their recovery programs.
- Affordable Care Act and its extended healthcare coverage. In 2014, the federal government exacted the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which extended its healthcare coverage to more than 10 million people who previously did not have insurance.
- An aging population that requires constant medical care. The population of people aged 65 years old and above will continue to grow; an estimated 1.5 billion elderly in 2050 will need medical support from experts. The more patients with growing and consistent medical needs, the more need there will be for trained healthcare professionals.
Salary Talks: What is the Highest Pay for a Medical Assistant?
In 2019, the median pay for medical assistant jobs was $374,800 per year and $16.73 per hour. The best-paid medical assistants made more than $40,000 that year whereas the lowest-paid MAs made $29,000.
What are the Educational Requirements of MAs? Do I Need to Be Certified?
Education is still important in terms of getting an MA job.
At the very least, employers require applicants to have their high school diplomas or GED. Some companies require MAs to be certified through an accredited medical assistant program. Medical assistants who wish to advance their careers can take an exam that offers students the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential. This credential, with medical training through a technical institute or vocational college, demonstrates an MA’s skill and competence.
Most programs are available in-person but there are also online classes for people with busy schedules.
What are the Perks of Becoming a Medical Assistant?
If you succeed in the path of becoming a medical assistant, look forward to the following career perks:
- A short educational journey. Some healthcare-related degree programs take several years, but earning your degree as a Medical Assistant is considerably shorter. Some colleges offer a one-year course for the programs.
- Work in different locations. Some healthcare jobs are limited to hospitals but that’s not the case for medical assistant jobs. As a medical assistant, you may work in different hospital departments. One minute you may be working in a chiropractor’s office and the next, you’ll find yourself in general practice. Medical assistants may also work in assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other settings.
- Build strong relationships with your patients. One of the most rewarding aspects of a career in medical assistance is your connection with the patients. Patients may have a relationship with their attending physicians but there are times when patients will feel more at ease with their medical assistant. Since MAs are in charge of taking care of patients, they have more opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations with patients. A simple “How was your day?” can help patients connect and relax.
- Be part of a strong team. Some careers are isolating; you’ll feel as if you’re doing all the work by yourself. This isn’t the case when you’re a medical assistant. As mentioned above, medical assistants are the heart of their team. They frequently work alongside doctors, nurses, practitioners and more. You’ll build trust with each other since you work together.
- Acquire the necessary skills for advancement. Medical assistants need plenty of soft skills to complement their technical skills. Good communication skills and sympathy are top of the must-have list for MAs. These skills can be leveraged in different healthcare careers, so honing them as a medical assistant can help you down the road. The technical skills of medical assistants can also lead to more opportunities. The mere act of drawing blood or performing EKG opens many doors for other healthcare professions.
- Work regular hours. Working at a clinic means that you’ll only work when the clinic is open. There may be occasions when you work weekends or night shifts but for the most part, your hours are regular. This means you’re less likely to feel overworked.
- Never be bored. If you think time flies when you’re busy, your shifts will be fast. Medical assistants have busy days. The tempo of your role may change according to the setting but you will always be needed.
If these medical assistant benefits excite you, consider venturing into the world of medical assistant jobs. Now that you know much about the career, it’s time to research accredited programs that can help you get there.