Less School, More Pay: Start a Fantastic Career as a Medical Assistant

medical assistant career

Medical Assistant Schooling and Careers

An education as a medical assistant can open doors to an excellent career with fantastic pay. Medical assistant jobs span a variety of opportunities including private sector jobs, government employment, and even opportunities with nonprofits and outreach programs.

A medical assistant degree can be found as an associate or bachelor’s program. There are also medical assistant postsecondary certificates that can get students and job seekers working in the medical field almost immediately.

As with most jobs, pay will be commensurate with experience and education.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates employment opportunities for medical assistants will grow by over 20% percent over the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations. This is especially great career path for military spouses, as they are certain to secure excellent job opportunities across their many moves. Don’t forget about the MyCAA Program for military spouses; for more info click here.

What is a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants complete a wide range of tasks including administrative and clinical duties. Responsibilities will also greatly vary with the location, specialty, and size of the medical practice. Medical assistant duties include: 

  • Measuring patient vital signs
  • Recording patient history, personal information, and current health
  • Helping physicians with patient examinations
  • Administering injections or medications under guidance of physician
  • Preparing blood samples for laboratory tests
  • Scheduling patient appointments
  • Maintaining medical records
    • Including software proficiency for maintaining electronic health records

Medical assistants do not examine, diagnose, and treat patients. In larger practices such as hospitals or clinics, a medical assistant may choose to specialize in administrative or clinical work. In smaller practices medical assistants will likely be a jack-of-all-trades as the physician, and state laws, allow.

Administrative medical assistants often:

  • schedule patient appointments
  • fill out insurance forms
  • request referrals
  • maintain medical records
  • code patients’ medical information

Clinical medical assistants are trained to:

  • conduct basic laboratory tests
  • dispose of biohazard materials
  • sterilize rooms and equipment
  • instruct patients about medication
  • prepare patients for x rays
  • remove stitches
  • draw blood
  • change wound dressings

Medical assistants are not required to be certified in most states. However, many employers prefer to hire certified assistants. There are several national organizations that offer certification. Some states may require medical assistants to graduate from an accredited program, pass an exam, or both in order to practice.

The nationally recognized certifications and accreditations for medical assistants are as follows:

  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
  • National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Health Career Association
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Health Career Association

Associate Degree in Medical Assisting

An Associate Degree in Medical Assisting from an accredited program is a valuable career move. Not only does it earn the student an associate degree, it also prepares the student to become a certified assistant upon passing the required exam. This nationally recognized certification as a medical assistant, in conjunction with the associate degree, will increase one’s job opportunities and earning potential.

Some medical assistants will choose to specialize their studies and career. The list of specialties for medical assistants is quite long as there are many medical specialties. Some of the more common specialties for medical assistants include:

  • Ophthalmic
  • Geriatric
  • Pediatric
  • Orthopedic
  • Cardiac
  • Obstetrics
  • Oncology

Jobs you can obtain with an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting:

Medical Assistant– perform administrative and clinical duties under the direction of a physician. Median annual salary: $36,000.

Community Health Worker– collect data and discuss health concerns with members of specific populations or communities. Median annual salary: $47,000.

Health Educator– teaches people and communities about behaviors that promote health and wellness. Median annual salary: $47,000.

Education Opportunities

Ready to earn your certificate and/or degree in medical assisting?

Check out these great programs available at our partner schools:

Lake Washington Institute of Technology has a comprehensive Medical Assisting program. A student can earn their Associate of Applied Science degree in Medical Assisting as well as a variety of certifications:

  • Medical Assisting, Certificate of Proficiency
  • Medical Office Administration, IBEST
  • Medical Office Administration, Certificate of Completion

Lake Washington Institute of Technology does not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Lone Star College offers a stackable certificate program for medical assisting. Certificates in Medical Assisting and Clinical Medical Assistant can be earned. Lone Star College does not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

New England Institute of Technology offers an Associate in Science in Medical Assisting and Administration. New England Institute of Technology participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

*All statistics and calculations from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information click here.

 

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About the author

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Born in SoCal yet raised Tampa, Florida - Leah earned her undergraduate BA in Liberal Studies from the University of Central Florida. Leah earned her MA in the MALAS at San Diego State University, while also completing a graduate teaching certificate in English for Secondary Education. An avid traveler, she has visited more than 60 countries. With the birth of her son Spencer in 2012, Leah embarked on her biggest adventure (yet) as parent and Coast Guard wife.