Medical Assistants Job, Salary, and School Information

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Medical Assistants

Medical Assistants


Education

What’s Needed:

  • Most employers don’t require their medical assistants to have two-year or four-year degrees in a medical discipline. In fact assistants who do have such degrees may be considered overqualified.
  • All aspiring medical assistants must have high school diplomas and should be willing to complete a rigorous program of on-the-job training. Since the specific duties of a medical assistant will depend upon the environment in which he or she works these training programs can last for six months or more.
  • Most medical assistants choose to obtain career-enhancing certifications.

    What you study:

Although there is no formal education program for aspiring medical assistants new workers are expected to be familiar with the following practical skills and subjects:

  • Basic anatomy
  • Basic bookkeeping
  • Electronic health record administration/manipulation
  • Basic medical vocabulary
  • Communication skills


Video Overview

A quick intro into the work of medical assistants. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.


A Day in the Life

Many medical assistants now function primarily as administrative assistants who update and synchronize patients’ electronic health records.

After deciding to become a medical assistant you learned that you had several distinct career paths available to you. As the medical field continues to diversify demand for competent medical assistants is blossoming in the nation’s hospitals and specialists’ offices. Many new medical assistants now find employment with 24-hour clinics charity hospitals and specialists like podiatrists and geriatricians. Some have become highly specialized: In fact many medical assistants now function primarily as administrative assistants who update and synchronize patients’ electronic health records.

After taking a half-hour break for lunch one of the physicians in your practice asks you to give a routine vaccination to a small child.

However you chose to take a more traditional career path and find employment with a primary-care practice in your area. Although you work in the same office every day and see many of the same patients you appreciate the varied nature of your job. You’re also a fan of the regular "nine-to-five" work schedule that gives you plenty of opportunity to spend time with your family and friends.

When you arrive at the office sometime before 9 a.m. you wash up and don the scrubs that you’ll wear for the remainder of the workday. Before seeing the first patient you check your office’s schedule to see how the next few hours will unfold. It looks to be a busy morning.

As you drive home you’re glad to have a job that doesn’t require you to work late into the evenings.

You grab a notepad and call the first patient of the day into the examination room. You lead an older gentleman in with a smile and ask him how his morning has been going.

Once he’s settled you take his blood pressure and ask him a few basic medical questions. You carefully note each of his answers. Later you’ll transfer this information into an electronic health record system. The physicians who run your office have hinted that they may soon purchase mini-tablets that allow you to enter this information directly into the system from the examination room. You’re excited by this prospect.

After you’ve taken his history you draw the patient’s blood in preparation for some standard blood work. While you won’t actually perform these tests on your own you’re responsible for drawing and handling these blood samples. You thank the patient for his time inform him that the doctor will arrive momentarily and take his blood sample to the on-site nurse who is responsible for analyzing it.

The rest of your morning proceeds in this fashion. After seeing each patient you make sure to enter their information into the electronic system before calling the next one into the examination room. This ensures that your office keeps its records straight and doesn’t expose itself to needless liability claims. On average you would guess that 20 percent of the time you spend in the office is devoted to updating and maintaining its electronic health records.

After taking a half-hour break for lunch one of the physicians in your practice asks you to give a routine vaccination to a small child. Since this is the first time that you’ve been asked to perform such a task you’re both nervous and excited. This represents a big step forward in your career as a medical assistant. Happily the injection comes off without a hitch. You hope that this small victory proves to your superiors that you’re capable of taking on even more complex and exciting tasks.

Although the last patient of the day won’t come through the office until after 6 p.m. you’re allowed to leave an hour early. As you drive home you’re glad to have a job that doesn’t require you to work late into the evenings. The fact that your work as a medical assistant is interesting and personally rewarding doesn’t hurt either.


Certifications and Licensing

Early in their careers most medical assistants choose to obtain at least one certification or accreditation from a recognized authority in the field. There are four such designations. While it’s entirely possible for ambitious medical assistants to earn all four most obtain one or two. They are:

  • American Medical Technologists’s Registered Medical Assistant designation (RMA)
  • American Association of Medical Assistants’s Certified Medical Assistant designation (CMA)
  • The National Center for Competency Testing’s National Certified Medical Assistant credential (NCMA)
  • The National Health Career Association’s Certified Clinical Medical Assistant designation (CCMA)

All of these require applicants to complete a comprehensive pre-testing preparation program and attend continuing-education or professional-development classes.


Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time and work location:

A clear majority of medical assistants work in a full-time capacity. Most work in primary-care clinics or medical practices that feature multiple doctors. Others work in specialists’ offices or hospitals. While most practice-focused assistants generally work during regular business hours some hospital-based assistants may need to work overnight or weekend shifts. This is an "on-site" job that’s impossible to do from home. However the regular shifts that most medical assistants work may allow for an acceptable work-life balance.


Recommended Websites

The following websites may be helpful to individuals who wish to pursue a career as a medical assistant:

  • American Association of Medical Assistants — Through its website this national professional organization offers a range of resources information and practical assistance for aspiring medical assistants. These include a full primer on medical assisting careers future job growth projections continuing-education assistance and preparation resources for the association’s Certified Medical Assistant exam. The site also contains links to state-specific AAMA chapters that have full job listings.
  • National Center for Competency Testing — Despite its generic name this organization is dedicated to offering certification assistance for prospective medical assistants and several other sub-categories of aspiring medical workers. It offers a comprehensive look at the field’s certification requirements and provides an exhaustive array of preparatory materials. The National Center for Competency Testing also administers a widely taken certification exam and provides state-specific continuing-education resources as well.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics — The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains an up-to-date primer on the field of medical assistance. This interactive online document contains salary information job-growth projections educational requirements basic certification information and other pertinent job-related resources. Unfortunately it lacks a jobs board feature.
  • American Medical Technologists — This umbrella organization is dedicated to serving the needs of a variety of medical workers including medical assistants. It offers information about certification primary education continuing education and general career-related resources. The American Medical Technologists’s site also links to state-specific chapters with job listings and other practical information.


Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

State City / Region Typical Salary Salary Range Job Count % of All Jobs
AK Anchorage $39310 $27K – $51K 790 0.46%
AK Fairbanks $41710 $32K – $57K 150 0.41%
AL Anniston – Oxford $23340 $17K – $33K 200 0.45%
AL Auburn – Opelika $26260 $19K – $32K 90 0.18%
AL Birmingham – Hoover $26950 $19K – $37K 1790 0.37%
AL Decatur $25670 $18K – $36K 170 0.32%
AL Dothan $22860 $17K – $33K 400 0.71%
AL Florence – Muscle Shoals $19260 $16K – $28K 250 0.49%
AL Gadsden $23140 $19K – $29K 220 0.66%
AL Huntsville $25970 $18K – $35K 520 0.25%
AL Mobile $22700 $18K – $29K 790 0.47%
AL Montgomery $23550 $18K – $33K 640 0.40%
AL Tuscaloosa $24420 $18K – $34K 220 0.25%
AR Fayetteville – Springdale – Rogers $27740 $21K – $40K 510 0.25%
AR Fort Smith $22510 $17K – $30K 120 0.10%
AR Hot Springs $25230 $21K – $30K 60 0.18%
AR Jonesboro $22880 $18K – $30K 50 0.11%
AR Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway $26320 $21K – $36K 650 0.20%
AR Pine Bluff $22510 $17K – $32K 150 0.43%
AZ Flagstaff $34360 $25K – $47K 260 0.47%
AZ Lake Havasu City $ Kingman $28230 $21K – $37K 370 0.84%
AZ Phoenix – Mesa – Glendale $32190 $25K – $39K 8460 0.49%
AZ Prescott $30160 $24K – $37K 250 0.48%
AZ Tucson $28170 $21K – $38K 3150 0.90%
AZ Yuma $27780 $20K – $38K 360 0.65%
CA Bakersfield – Delano $23980 $19K – $35K 1760 0.64%
CA Chico $27310 $21K – $36K 560 0.83%
CA El Centro $23770 $19K – $31K 160 0.30%
CA Fresno $27240 $21K – $38K 2410 0.77%
CA Hanford – Corcoran $26350 $21K – $39K 220 0.59%
CA Los Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area) $32080 $22K – $47K 22670 0.59%
CA Madera – Chowchilla $30120 $21K – $43K 210 0.55%
CA Merced $25820 $19K – $36K 520 0.87%
CA Modesto $32020 $22K – $40K 870 0.57%
CA Napa $35290 $27K – $55K 260 0.41%
CA Oakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area) $35950 $25K – $53K 5990 0.62%
CA Oxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura $31860 $22K – $41K 2210 0.77%
CA Redding $28700 $23K – $37K 570 0.98%
CA Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario $26880 $19K – $38K 7050 0.61%
CA Sacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville $34700 $24K – $55K 5170 0.63%
CA Salinas $34320 $25K – $57K 800 0.52%
CA San Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos $33320 $23K – $47K 7580 0.60%
CA San Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area) $40940 $32K – $56K 3910 0.39%
CA San Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara $37640 $26K – $51K 4120 0.46%
CA San Luis Obispo – Paso Robles $30270 $22K – $42K 670 0.67%
CA Santa Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area) $32860 $23K – $47K 7470 0.53%
CA Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta $31930 $25K – $45K 860 0.52%
CA Santa Cruz – Watsonville $39710 $28K – $47K 670 0.81%
CA Santa Rosa – Petaluma $39520 $28K – $53K 880 0.51%
CA Stockton $29440 $20K – $38K 1250 0.64%
CA Vallejo – Fairfield $46530 $28K – $74K 1000 0.83%
CA Visalia – Porterville $27610 $21K – $37K 720 0.55%
CA Yuba City $27730 $21K – $41K 380 1.05%
CO Boulder $30330 $25K – $40K 490 0.30%
CO Colorado Springs $28830 $24K – $37K 1150 0.47%
CO Denver – Aurora – Broomfield $33820 $25K – $46K 4430 0.36%
CO Fort Collins – Loveland $30680 $25K – $39K 540 0.41%
CO Grand Junction $28410 $20K – $38K 330 0.58%
CO Greeley $27740 $20K – $37K 370 0.46%
CO Pueblo $28520 $22K – $38K 270 0.50%
CT Bridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk $31820 $24K – $45K 1640 0.40%
CT Danbury $38960 $28K – $53K 430 0.64%
CT Hartford – West Hartford – East Hartford $33480 $23K – $46K 1930 0.35%
CT New Haven $32330 $22K – $48K 1160 0.43%
CT Norwich – New London $33410 $25K – $47K 560 0.44%
CT Waterbury $31480 $22K – $40K 400 0.63%
DC Washington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area) $34370 $25K – $46K 6210 0.27%
DE Dover $29440 $23K – $40K 270 0.46%
DE Wilmington (Metro Area) $32810 $23K – $45K 1270 0.39%
FL Cape Coral – Fort Myers $31440 $23K – $39K 1250 0.61%
FL Crestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin $25400 $20K – $33K 210 0.28%
FL Deltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach $32010 $22K – $40K 860 0.57%
FL Fort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area) $29820 $22K – $39K 4080 0.57%
FL Gainesville $26270 $21K – $36K 560 0.47%
FL Jacksonville $27140 $21K – $37K 2940 0.51%
FL Lakeland – Winter Haven $25470 $20K – $36K 810 0.43%
FL Miami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area) $25960 $18K – $36K 4760 0.48%
FL Naples – Marco Island $34730 $27K – $45K 500 0.43%
FL North Port – Bradenton – Sarasota $31890 $25K – $40K 1100 0.46%
FL Ocala $26210 $21K – $34K 1030 1.15%
FL Orlando – Kissimmee – Sanford $27980 $22K – $37K 4890 0.48%
FL Palm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville $26670 $20K – $35K 1630 0.85%
FL Palm Coast $25250 $20K – $31K 80 0.46%
FL Panama City – Lynn Haven – Panama City Beach $25150 $18K – $36K 260 0.37%
FL Pensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent $24860 $18K – $35K 1010 0.67%
FL Port St. Lucie $28960 $26780 $21K – $35K 320 0.81%
FL Sebastian – Vero Beach $30260 $23K – $44K 170 0.38%
FL Tallahassee $27980 $20K – $37K 630 0.41%
FL Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater $27900 $22K – $36K 6390 0.57%
FL West Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area) $32840 $24K – $41K 2440 0.48%
GA Albany $21310 $16K – $35K 510 0.85%
GA Athens – Clarke County $28110 $19K – $37K 430 0.56%
GA Atlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta $29140 $22K – $38K 10010 0.44%
GA Augusta – Richmond County $27680 $20K – $47K 1150 0.57%
GA Brunswick $28490 $21K – $38K 170 0.46%
GA Columbus $24990 $19K – $34K 850 0.78%
GA Dalton $27160 $20K – $41K 180 0.29%
GA Gainesville $29050 $23K – $38K 550 0.77%
GA Macon $28700 $18K – $38K 500 0.53%
GA Rome $26490 $20K – $36K 310 0.87%
GA Savannah $27930 $22K – $37K 660 0.44%
GA Valdosta $25760 $17K – $36K 270 0.53%
GA Warner Robins $26780 $21K – $36K 230 0.41%
HI Honolulu $35070 $24K – $46K 2750 0.63%
IA Ames $30160 $23K – $38K 110 0.27%
IA Cedar Rapids $30300 $22K – $37K 380 0.28%
IA Davenport – Moline – Rock Island $25630 $20K – $34K 640 0.36%
IA Des Moines – West Des Moines $31050 $25K – $43K 1030

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