A Medical Assistant provides general support services for physicians, nurses, administrative personnel, as well as other healthcare professionals. Their general duties range from administrative to clinical tasks, such as duties involving patient care. They generally work alongside physicians in outpatient care facilities or hospitals.
Are Medical Assistants in High Demand?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that the employment of Medical Assistants was expected to grow by approximately 29% from 2012 to 2022. The BLS also stated that in 2019, the U.S. workforce consisted of 725,200 Medical Assistants and that this number is expected to grow to 864,400 by 2029.
This jump in the number of expected jobs can be credited to various factors, such as the required upcoming demands of people of age in the US (increase in the number of baby boomers, i.e., Americans older than 65 years of age), growing access to health care offered by the government, and the increasing amount of group medical practices.
More and more sections of the population need to visit doctors & healthcare facilities. These facilities need Medical Assistants, and hence the demand for Medical Assistants keeps on growing.
Types of Medical Assistants and Their Responsibilities
There is a wide range of roles and responsibilities that a Medical Assistant handles. There are also many types of medical assistants. They are also specialized to work in a diverse set of environments.
The two primary types of Medical Assistants are-
- Clinical Medical Assistant
- Medical Administrative Assistant
Clinical Medical Assistants
Clinical Medical Assistants generally work in clinical settings in close proximity to physicians or other healthcare professionals & help them directly with patient care. Their roles and responsibilities ultimately depend on various factors, such as the needs of the healthcare professionals, qualifications, and capabilities.
Typically, the major responsibilities of Certified Clinical Medical Assistant may include-
- Assisting the physician in conducting and analyzing various laboratory tests
- Preparing the patients for any upcoming tests or procedures and relaying basic information to them
- Maintaining and administering medications to patients
- Collecting samples for analysis and maintaining examination rooms both before and after patient visits.
Medical Assistants may additionally be required to undergo training in order for them to undertake more tasks. An example is a Medical Assistant working in a microbiology laboratory having to undergo basic training on how to prepare different broth cultures for analysis as well as other lab equipment. A medical assistant working in a lab should not be confused with a Medical Laboratory Technician.
Administrative Medical Assistant
Medical Administrative Assistants are generally required to perform administrative duties from behind the desk, unlike Clinical Medical Assistants. Their general roles and responsibilities may include –
- Scheduling appointments and following up with patients as and when required
- Maintaining patient medical records
- Maintaining point-of-contact between patients and the clinic
- Filling out insurance
- Maintaining the inventory
- Performing any additional administrative tasks wherever required or directed by healthcare professionals
Administrative Medical Assistants are usually stationed at the front of the office and are not required to assist the physicians in a clinical environment. However, they may be required to fill in whenever necessary.
A clinical medical assistant might be asked to fill in the role of an administrative assistant.
Generally, the number of medical assistants a healthcare facility hires depends on the size of the facility and the number of patients they deal with. A smaller facility might only hire a clinical medical assistant and ask them to fill in the role of an administrative assistant. A bigger facility might hire multiple medical assistants for clinical or administrative roles. Ultimately, the answer to where can medical assistants work depends on the type of healthcare facility.
Want to know more? Here are the top 15 medical assistant skills to put on your resume.
Types of Clinical Medical Assistants
There are further specializations under the category of Clinical Medical Assistants. Once an individual starts their career as a Clinical Medical Assistant, they have the option of evolving into any of these specialized categories if they wish to work in a specialized field with specialized healthcare professionals.
Here are the top 4 types of Clinical Medical Assistants –
1. Podiatric Medical Assistant
A Podiatric Medical Assistant works in close proximity to podiatrists (healthcare specialists that help with issues related to the feet). These individuals are required to perform various specialized tasks directly related to podiatry, which may include –
- Assisting the podiatrist with the development and exposing of X-rays
- Preparing casts personalized for each foot
- Possibly assisting the podiatrist within surgical settings
Podiatric Medical Assistants may also be additionally required to gain a basic knowledge of podiatric medicine.
Read more about Podiatric Medical Assistant here.
2. Ophthalmologic Medical Assistant
Ophthalmologic Medical Assistants work in close proximity to ophthalmologists (healthcare specialists that help with issues related to the eyes). They are required to assist the ophthalmologists as well as perform tasks specialized in ophthalmology, which may include-
- Assisting the ophthalmologists in surgery (pre-and post-operative care)
- Informing the patients on the appropriate dose and procedure for ingesting any prescribed medications
- Assisting patients with contact lenses
- Performing any other tasks as directed by the ophthalmologists
Since Ophthalmologic Medical Assistants are required to perform specialized tasks, they should typically have sufficient knowledge regarding ophthalmology medicine.
Here is more about Ophthalmologic Medical Assistant.
3. Obstetric Medical Assistant
OB/GYN or Obstetric Medical Assistants generally assist physicians or healthcare professionals working in women’s healthcare, which involves patient care for women of all ages and stages in life. They are required to assist obstetricians or gynecologists in various specialized tasks, which may include-
- Assisting the physicians with regular procedures, such as breast and pelvic examinations, STI screenings, and PAP smears
- Assisting women throughout the course of their pregnancy
- Assisting physicians in minor surgeries (such as minor gynecological procedures)
Since Obstetric Medical Assistants are required to perform specialized tasks related to directly assisting Obstetricians and Gynecologists, they should be aptly prepared and have sufficient basic knowledge to assist the healthcare professionals.
Also read: OB/GYN Medical Assistant
4. Chiropractic Medical Assistant
Generally, Chiropractic Medical Assistants work in close proximity to chiropractors (healthcare specialists that mainly focus on issues related to the spine). They are required to perform a variety of specialized tasks in order to assist the chiropractor, which may include-
- Informing and teaching patients constructive exercises as directed by the doctor
- Assisting the doctors with any necessary treatment or tasks required by them
Chiropractic Medical Assistants are required to assist the chiropractors and hence are usually required to be certified and be comfortable with direct physical contact with the patients.
In addition to these, you can find a few similar medical assistant types, which include:
- Physical Therapy Medical Assistant
- Nursing Medical Assistant
- Dental Medical Assistant
- Pediatric Medical Assistant
- Cardiology Medical Assistant
- Dermatology Medical Assistant
What is the Difference between Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) and Medical Assistants?
A lot of people are confused if CNAs, or Certified Nursing Assistants, are similar to Medical Assistants. That’s not the case.
The fundamental difference between a CNA and a Medical Assistant is that CNAs provide support services and assistance to nurses, while Medical Assistants provide support services to doctors or physicians.
The main focus of a CNA is to provide everyday care and assistance to patients, such as ensuring on-time ingestion of medicines, bathing, ensuring they eat their meals, physical therapy, and so on.
On the other hand, Medical Assistants are more focused on assisting doctors and healthcare professionals in preparing and treatment of the patient. A CNA is trained and performs direct and hands-on patient care in an inpatient facility with skilled nurses. (Medical Assistant Vs Nurse)
Medical Assistants are required to assist doctors in an outpatient setting. (Here’s everything about Certified Medical Assistants Vs Certified Nursing Assistants)
What is the Salary of a Medical Assistant?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average wage estimate for a Medical Assistant is $ 38,190, whereas the employment estimate is an average of 727,760 jobs per year.
The industries with the highest employment and average wage for Medical Assistants include:
Physician’s offices, with an average mean wage estimate of $ 37,610 and employment of 421,960
Surgical and General Hospitals, with an average mean wage estimate of $ 39,550 and employment of 106,640
Outpatient Care Centers, with an average mean wage estimate of $ 44,680 and employment of 64,650
Health Practitioner’s Offices, with an average mean wage estimate of $ 33,170 and employment of 58,920
Employment Services, with an average mean wage estimate of $ 38,840 and employment of 13,850
Medical Assistant Salary Vs Salaries In Other Industries
- Brokerages, Insurance Related Activities, and other Agencies, with an annual salary of $ 52,970
- Supplies Merchants and Professional and Commercial Equipment Wholesalers, with an annual salary of $ 48,940
- Outpatient Care Centres, with an annual salary of $ 44,680
- Mail-Order Houses and Electronic Shopping, with an annual salary of $ 44,420
- Insurance Carriers, with an annual salary of $ 44,390
Obviously, you can see that the annual average Certified Medical Assistant Salary is in the lower range as compared to other careers within the healthcare industry.
However, considering you don’t need a degree or go to a full-time college to get Medical Assistance training, the career is not a bad option.
Also see: Medical Assistant On The Job Training
Plus, a career in medical assistance acts as an entry point into the healthcare field and a stepping stone for more specialized jobs that eventually have a higher mean annual wage.
Once an individual gains experience in the field of medical assistance, they can choose to evolve into highly specialized roles such as Registered Nurse, full-time Physician, and so on.
The States with the highest employment rate for Medical Assistants include:
- California, with an employment of 97,640
- Texas, with an employment of 69,370
- Florida, with an employment of 57,210
- New York, with an employment of 31,360
- Georgia, with an employment of 26,610
The States with the highest annual mean wage for Medical Assistants include:
- Washington, with a mean salary of $ 47,320
- District of Columbia, with a mean annual wage of $ 46,690
- Alaska, with an annual salary of $ 46,390
- California, with a mean annual wage of $ 44,780
- Massachusetts, with a mean annual wage of $ 44,200
How to Become a Medical Assistant? Is a Degree Required?
How to become a Medical Assistant, well the good thing is no specialized degree is required. An individual must, however, complete two major steps before starting their job applications –
The first step toward becoming a medical assistant is getting your training. You can enroll in one of the medical assistant programs, and you have several options to choose from.
Once you complete your training, you can sit for your certification exams. They are nationally-recognized agencies that conduct examinations to test Medical Assistants, and once you clear these examinations, you’re a Certified Medical Assistant.
The BLS, as well as the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, suggest four medical assistance certifications that are considered legitimate, which include:
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification offered by the National Healthcareer Association (Recommended for Beginners, Popular with Employers)
- Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) certification offered by the National Healthcareer Association (CMAA vs CCMA)
- The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certifications offered by the American Medical Technologists
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) certification offered by the National Center for Competency Testing
Also read: Medical Assistant Certificate Requirement
You don’t have to get certified by all of these agencies (Which Medical Assistant Certification is Best?); even if you’re certified by one, that’s enough to start your career as a Medical Assistant.
The most recommended course for beginners looking to enter the field of medical assistance is to enroll in the certification course or program, which prepares them for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Read more on: Is Medical Assistant Degree Required?
A career in medical assistance can help you get your foot in the door in the ever-growing & high-paying healthcare field. A majority of Registered Nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals usually start their careers as Medical Assistants.
Read more on: Is Medical Assistant a Good Career?
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