A career in medical assistance is considered to be the best stepping stone for individuals who want to enter the healthcare industry and work on the front lines.
Medical Assistants are healthcare workers who work in close proximity to nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals. They provide support services to professionals, and their duties typically involve both clinical and administrative tasks.
If you are interested in pursuing this rewarding career, you must be wondering about what career advancement opportunities look like once you enter this field. Generally, medical assistants go on to become registered nurses, healthcare managers, or physician assistants.
Read on to find out the career path and advancement opportunities available for medical assistants.
Medical Assistant Career Path
Medical assistance is an ideal career for people looking to enter healthcare since you do not need a degree to become one.
The best part about this career is that you can start working as a medical assistant within a few weeks or months of completing your training since there are only a few requirements to fulfill.
Here is a brief overview of how to become a medical assistant:
- Complete your high school diploma or GED-The minimum prerequisite before starting your medical assistant training is to complete your high school diploma or a GED.
- Choose a training program that suits you best- If you want to pursue a training program for medical assistants, you will have many options to choose from. One option is to pursue a medical assistant certificate online, which provides focused training in the field, is cheaper, and can be completed the quickest. Alternatively, you can also opt for an associate degree, which offers a more comprehensive and in-depth education in medical assisting.
- Complete your medical assistant training and get certified- Even though not necessary in most states except Washington, employers highly prefer candidates who undertake medical assistant training and obtain certifications. While an associate’s degree may take up to 2 years to complete, you can complete an online certification medical assistant program in as little as 6 months.
Read more on: Medical Assistant Scope of Practice by State
- Enhance your CV by obtaining additional certificates- Apart from a medical assistant certificate, you can also obtain additional certifications that will make you a more valuable candidate and make you shine in front of employers. You can opt for certification courses in phlebotomy and EKG, among others.
- Apply for jobs- After you have completed your training and are a certified medical assistant, you can start applying for jobs in your preferred healthcare setting, such as a hospital, outpatient care center, or doctor’s office.
How Can Medical Assistants Advance Their Careers?
Once you settle into your career as a medical assistant and start growing your skill set, you will start looking for career advancement opportunities sooner or later.
The healthcare industry is one field where you can expect ample growth and career development opportunities.
Also read: Medical Assistant Skills
Let us look at some of the ways you can advance your career in the field of medical assistance-
- Getting certified-
Getting certified as a medical assistant is one of the best ways to get a good starting salary and bump up your chances of getting employment. Certified medical assistants are also known to earn 10% more than uncertified ones.
See also: Certified Medical Assistant Salary
- Pick a field to specialize in-
There are many types of medical assistants and all of them specialize in specific areas of healthcare. You can also pick one field and choose to work in offices or hospitals specializing in that field
Also see: Where Can Medical Assistants Work
- Offer medical assistant training-
Once you have gained enough knowledge and experience as a senior medical assistant, you can also choose to impart your knowledge to budding medical assistants. You can become a medical assistant trainer or instructor in a university or certification program, or you can also become a trainer at your workplace for new joiners.
- Become an office manager-
Medical assistants typically have to handle the majority of administrative tasks within a clinic or an office, such as scheduling appointments and planning everything around the physician’s schedule. This is why medical administrative assistants usually go on to become office managers.
Also see: Accelerated Medical Assistant Program
Medical Assistant Career Advancement Opportunities
Medical assisting offers opportunities for individuals to gain foundational knowledge in the healthcare field. By working as a medical assistant, you can gain exposure to various aspects such as medical terminology, fundamental procedures, and more.
This makes medical assistance an excellent stepping stone for those considering advancing their careers in higher-level healthcare professions. Starting as a medical assistant can allow you to build a strong foundation and gain practical experience, which can significantly benefit your future pursuits in the healthcare industry.
Let us take a look at a few careers that you can transition to as a medical assistant:
Medical Assistant to Registered Nurse (RN)
- Additional Education- Requires an associate degree, 2 years.
- Salary Difference- $37,190 (medical assistants) and $77,600 (RNs).
- Job Outlook- Average, 6% growth expected by the year 2031.
A registered nurse is a healthcare professional who plays a vital role in various healthcare settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, home health services, operating rooms, and more.
Their responsibilities can include critical care like intensive care units or medical transport teams, as well as office-based tasks such as reviewing charts and handling insurance claims.
Nurses usually devote themselves to patient care, which involves administering medications, addressing hygiene needs, and performing certain medical procedures. They are skilled in tasks such as placing intravenous lines, changing dressings, assisting in surgical procedures, and conducting patient assessments.
To become a registered nurse, you will need to complete a minimum of two years of education beyond high school graduation. This includes completing an accredited nursing program and passing a licensing examination.
Registered nurses have opportunities for further education and specialization. They can pursue advanced degrees to become nurse practitioners or certified registered nurse anesthetists, expanding their scope of practice and responsibilities.
In terms of salary, registered nurses earn an average annual salary of around $77,600. The job outlook for registered nurses is projected to grow by 6% from 2020 to 2030, indicating favorable career opportunities in the field, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Read more on: Are Medical Assistant Licenses Required?
Medical Assistant to Physician Assistant
- Additional Education- Requires attending 5 to 6 years of school for a Master’s in Physician Assisting degree.
- Salary Difference- $37,190 (medical assistants) and $121,530 (physician assistants).
- Job Outlook- 28% growth expected by the year 2031.
A physician assistant (PA) is a healthcare professional who shares similarities in terms of duties with a doctor. They possess the ability to assess patients, make diagnoses, and prescribe treatments under the supervision of a medical doctor.
Physician assistants typically work in clinics, doctor’s offices, hospitals, and operating rooms. They can assist in surgical procedures, perform invasive medical interventions, and prescribe medications.
Becoming a physician assistant usually requires a commitment of 5 to 8 years. The process to become one involves completing a master’s degree program from an accredited institution, followed by successfully passing a licensure examination.
Many physician assistant programs require applicants to have prior healthcare experience before starting their formal education.
In the United States, physician assistants earn an average annual salary of $121,530. The job outlook for physician assistants is highly favorable, with an anticipated growth rate of 28% between 2020 and 2030.
Read also: Is Medical Assistant Degree Required?
Medical Assistant to Healthcare Management
- Additional Education- A minimum of bachelor’s degree, master’s degree is preferred, requires from 4 to 6 years.
- Salary Difference- $37,190 (medical assistants) and $101,340 (healthcare management).
- Job Outlook- 28% growth expected by the year 2031.
Healthcare managers play a vital role in organizing, planning, and overseeing various healthcare organizations. They manage entire hospital systems or specific healthcare teams and units.
The responsibilities of healthcare managers include supervising schedules, managing budgets, and setting quality improvement goals for healthcare facilities.
Becoming a healthcare manager typically requires at least a bachelor’s degree, although a master’s degree is often preferred. Degrees that are well-suited for healthcare managers encompass both healthcare and business courses.
Individuals may enter the field of healthcare management after starting their careers as medical assistants, nurses, or social workers.
In terms of compensation, healthcare managers usually earn an average annual salary of around $101,340. However, the specific salary can vary significantly depending on the type of healthcare facility. Larger hospital systems generally offer higher salaries compared to local clinics, for instance.
The job outlook for healthcare managers is similar to that of physician assistants, with a projected job growth rate of 28% from 2020 to 2030.
Medical Assistant to Medical Assistant Health Information Technologist
- Additional Education- A minimum of an associate’s degree in computer systems, healthcare, or a similar field.
- Salary Difference- $37,190 (medical assistants) and $55,000 (health information technologist).
- Job Outlook- 17% growth expected by the year 2031.
Health information technologists play a crucial role in working with patient data. They are responsible for organizing and managing health information, contributing to the development of improved systems that enhance health outcomes.
They have the opportunity to analyze data from various sources worldwide and may be involved in working with disease registry systems or being at the forefront of discovering new healthcare advancements.
To pursue a career as a health information technologist, you will typically require at least an associate degree in healthcare, computer systems, or a related field. A solid understanding of medical terminology and utilizing advanced computer organization systems are essential skills in this field.
Health information technologists typically earn an average annual salary of approximately $55,500. The job outlook for these professionals is favorable, with a projected growth rate of 17%, surpassing the national average.
Medical Assistant to Dental Health Hygienist
- Additional Education- Either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, duration ranges from 2 to 4 years.
- Salary Difference- $37,190 (medical assistants) and $77,800 (dental health hygienist).
- Job Outlook- 9% growth expected by the year 2031.
Dental hygienists are the backbone of dental and orthodontic offices, where they perform various tasks such as teeth cleaning, administering fluoride treatments, taking x-rays, and providing assistance during dental procedures.
Being a dental hygienist also provides the opportunity to work in a hands-on and fast-paced healthcare environment, all while enjoying a schedule that typically aligns with regular business hours.
To become a dental hygienist, a minimum of an associate’s degree is required. Dental hygiene programs are offered by universities, state colleges, and technical schools, with the duration typically ranging from 18 months to three years.
Dental hygienists are in high demand across the country, and they receive a decent salary, averaging around $77,800 per year.
Medical Assistant to Medical Claims Examiner
- Additional Education- Only a high school diploma is required, experience in the healthcare or insurance industry is preferred.
- Salary Difference- $37,190 (medical assistants) and $64,710 (medical claims examiner).
- Job Outlook- 6% decrease is expected by the year 2031.
A medical claims examiner is responsible for evaluating claims submitted by patients and insurance companies to determine the coverage and validity of losses. Their role involves ensuring fair payment for legitimate claims and preventing fraudulent claims from being approved.
Medical claims examiners can work for insurance companies, government agencies, or hospitals. Some professionals in this field also work remotely or from home, allowing them to have more freedom in terms of travel and work location.
One advantage of pursuing a career as a medical claims examiner is the average annual salary, which is around $64,710. Additionally, this profession often requires only a high school diploma, making it a potential opportunity for medical assistants seeking to increase their income without returning to school.
Much of the training for medical claims examiners is typically provided on the job. This allows individuals to gain the necessary skills and knowledge through hands-on experience and professional development within the field.
Medical Assistant to Respiratory Therapist
- Additional Education- At least an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree.
- Salary Difference- $37,190 (medical assistants) and $61,830 (respiratory therapist).
- Job Outlook- 14% decrease is expected by the year 2031.
Respiratory therapists, like nurses, commonly work in hospitals, clinics, and long-term care centers. However, their primary focus revolves around assessing and addressing patients’ breathing and lung function, distinguishing them from nurses.
Within a hospital setting, respiratory therapists are responsible for managing ventilators and other respiratory equipment. In emergency situations, they may also perform procedures such as inserting breathing tubes for patients.
To pursue this career, a minimum of an associate degree is required, although many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree.
The average annual salary for respiratory therapists is approximately $61,830. Furthermore, the job outlook for this profession is promising, with an expected growth rate of 14% over the next decade.
See also: Is Medical Assistant a Good Career?
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