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The terms medical assistant and medical assistant technician are often used interchangeably. Most medical assistants are cross-trained to perform administrative and clinical responsibilities, however, the medical assistant may only do one or the other, depending on the facility they are employed with. Medical assistant duties vary by health care facility and depend on the size and location of the practice. Medical assistants are usually the first and last people that patients see when they are at a medical facility.
Please continue reading to find out more about what it takes to become a medical assistant.
Find local medical trade schools with a variety of medical career programs including accredited online medical assistant.
A huge growth in employment is projected for medical assistants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics site states there will be a 29 percent growth between now and 2026. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. Factors driving this increase for medical assistants are the aging baby-boomers and the expanding physician practices to accommodate patients.
Because there is so much growth within doctors' offices, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, medical assistants are necessary to keep the administrative and clinical aspects running smoothly.
Medical assistants, at median, earn $32,480 annually. The highest 10 percent will make an annual salary of $45,900, and those new to the field will earn closer to $23,830. Keep in mind, these numbers are the national scale. Factors such as geographic location, type of practice, and amount of experience can make those salaries look different for you.
|District of Columbia||$40K|
“They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”Maya Angelou
Medical assistant duties include both front-end and back-end tasks, including greeting patients, answering phones, updating and filing medical records, handling various insurance forms and correspondence, and making appointments when needed. Often times medical assistants will also arrange hospital admission for a patient or handle laboratory services.
Clinical responsibilities vary by state, but they can include taking medical histories, recording vital signs, prepping patients for exams, providing treatment and procedure explanations, and assisting the doctor during an exam. Other duties include collecting laboratory specimens, performing laboratory tests, disposing of contaminated supplies, and sterilizing medical instruments—all under the supervision of the physician on staff.
Clinical: Clinical medical assistants are not qualified to provide the same type of care as a nurse or doctor. However, they are still extremely beneficial in helping with patients by recording their medical history, explaining procedures and care with the patient and their family, preparing the patient for their exam, and prepare and deliver medication to the patient.
Other duties a clinical medical assistant may be qualified to do are drawing blood and receiving specimens, performing tests on the specimens collected, performing EKGs, removing stitches, and dressing wounds.
Administrative: In some healthcare settings, medical assistants are tasked with strictly administrative duties. They deliver forms and assist the patients in filling them out, they take care of the appointments, they work with the insurance companies, and they update patient records.
Administrative medical assistants provide assistance to the healthcare facilities' in-house billers and coders, as well as the doctors and nurses.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”Henry David Thoreau
Like many other careers in the medical field, medical assistants have opportunities to specialize. Listed below are the many different areas that medical assistants can specialize in.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”Dalai Lama
It may seem like the options for medical assistant programs are limitless, which can make it feel confusing when picking your program. When starting your search—and inevitably making your final choice on medical assistant programs—there are a few factors to consider.
Students are required to have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent to become a medical assistant. Employers typically insist that medical assistants pursue further education including receiving their certified medical assistant (CMA) documentation, but there are some medical facilities that will train high school graduates or GED holders in-house.
Most community colleges offer two-year associate degree programs for medical assisting. There is also the trade school or vocational school route, which takes a year to complete, and the student earns a diploma. Both programs will usually include a combination of classroom and practical training.
Medical assisting programs are also available through online courses that allow students to go at their own pace. Hybrid programs, which include both online and on-campus training, are also viable options.
On-campus training programs have set schedules that can include courses at any time of day. The only drawback to those is the lack of flexibility given to the students.
Online training, while exceptionally flexible, doesn’t include the required training portion. That is left entirely to the student to find.
The hybrid programs have the "best of both worlds," in that courses can be done at the student’s pace because they are online, but they include the lab work and training at participating campuses.
|Length||Up to 1 yr.||2 years full time|
|Positives||Fast track to a good career||Can go toward a bachelor's degree|
|Drawbacks||Not as marketable||Longer and more expensive than diploma|
Becoming certified is not required, but it’s highly recommended due to the fact that employers prefer their medical assistants to be certified. Another benefit to medical assistant certification is that it is reflected in the paycheck. CMAs earn an average of $8,000-$12,000 per year more than non-certified medical assistants.
To become a certified medical assistant, the training program must first be completed. Exams are given in January, June, and October, every year.
You must take the exam between 30 days prior to program completion and up to a year after the program completion and your diploma or degree had been earned. Non-recent graduates have up to a year after their course has been completed. And you may also apply to be re-certified if you had already taken and passed the exam but need re-certification. Only those who graduated from an accredited program are qualified to sit for the certification exam.
A one-year medical assisting program through a vocational school can cost between $1,200-$4,200. The same kind of program through a community college costs $2,500-$10,000. Depending on whether your are a state resident or not, an associate degree through a community college can run between $600-$5,400 a year for residents and $2,700-$5,400 per year for out-of-state students.
There are very few additional costs involved with medical assisting programs aside from school supplies and classroom materials. However, one additional cost is the certification exam given by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and that costs either $125 or $250 depending on if you are a recent graduate or and/or a member of the AAMA.
The medical field is filled with excellent opportunities, and one of the fastest ways to get involved is through a medical assisting program.
Practice Exams for Medical Careers: