The Short Story
Medical Assisting is one of the fastest growing careers in the United States, not only because of the wide variety of jobs within the career field, but because of the need for quality medical assistants to work with physicians in treating patients. Medical assistants are the backbone of doctor offices and medical clinics; they assist the physician in diagnosis, treatment and follow up care of patients, they also assist with billing, record keeping and patient relations, a jack of all trades in the medical office.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 29% growth of employment opportunities in the field of medical assisting between 2012 and 2022, creating over 160,000 job openings in that time (BLS, 2012). To make things even better, the median salary for a medical assistant is $29,370 per year, with opportunities to specialize in certain medical fields, expand on education and, in turn, pay raises. A self satisfying career, a living wage and job security in this field makes for a winning combination.
What Kinds Of Medical Assisting Jobs Are Out There?
As stated above, the majority of Medical Assistant careers are in doctors’ offices, where there are many roles to be filled. For basic Medical Assisting career training, many schools offer separate programs for what are called Administrative Medical Assistants and Clinical Medical Assistants.
Clinical Medical Assistant
A clinical medical assistant assists physicians in a medical setting with administrative duties and patient care, with a focus on interacting directly with the patient. As a clinical medical assistant, you will assist in patient relations, basic assessments and treatment of ailments. Clinical Medical Assistants get patients settled in the examination rooms, keep the treatment and examination rooms neat and functional, help with collecting blood and other specimens from patients, and perform other important tasks as directed by licensed medical professionals. Typical duties include: checking patients in by taking and recording vital signs; preparing the patient and the visiting room for any procedures that may be performed; assisting the doctor, nurse, or physician's assistant with their treatments; ensuring for patient comfort; and escorting the patient out of the clinic.
To become a clinical medical assistant, you will need to complete a medical assisting program. to find programs available in your state, simply choose the link to the left where you live. You can request information from schools to choose the best options for becoming a Medical Assistant (MA) in your area.
Administrative Medical Assistant
A medical administrative assistant helps with office and administrative duties within a medical office. As a medical administrative assistant you will assist office staff with record keeping, billing, appointment scheduling and maintaining current knowledge of changing policies and procedures and implementing the changes in the office.
You will need to have excellent communication skills as well as organizational skills and time management as you will play a key role in making sure patients are satisfied and the office runs smoothly. To become a medical administrative assistant, you will need to complete a medical administrative assistant program which will educate you on office programs, healthcare laws, ethics and medical terminology to help you succeed in the medical office setting.
After you earn your clinical medical assistant certification, you will have the training that prepares you for many employment opportunities in all sorts of medical settings such as medical clinics, hospitals, outpatient care clinics and all sorts of specialty clinics and hospitals. Usually more administrative work is required in smaller or private offices, but patient record keeping will be required in all settings. You will also need to have good communication and personal skills as you will be interacting with patients and office staff throughout your work day.
Regardless of whether you plan to work in a clinical or administrative role, after you graduate from the program, you can apply to take a certification exam that will open the doors to more job opportunities and increased pay. To ensure that you will qualify to take the exam, be sure your school offers an accredited program. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are the accrediting bodies for medical assisting programs.
The United States Department of Labor predicts the field of medical assisting to have a large growth in job outlook over the next ten years, creating job security and high need of medical assistants. Depending on the medical setting at which you work, some medical assistants will work weekends or on call, but generally a 40 hour work week is required.
What Other Kinds of Careers Are There In Medical Assisting?
In addition to Medical Assisting Degrees, there are several other career and education routes to assist in the medical profession. While we do not currently have a list of schools that offer these medical assisting programs, we are in the process of compiling a database to help you find schools. In the meantime, we hope to provide you with the information you are looking for, and have taken the time to outline additional medical assisting careers below.
Dental assistants help with a variety of duties within a dental office including administrative, clinical and patient care. Dental assistants also schedule appointments, keep patient and payment records, as well as maintain and prepare dental supplies for use. As a dental assistant, you will need to have great personal, communication and organizational skills.
To become a dental assistant, you will need to complete a certified dental assisting program as well as pass exams to obtain certification, as well as meet state based requirements. Requirements for obtaining and maintaining certifications vary between states and information regarding these requirements can be found through the National Dental Assisting Board. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment growth to increase much faster than average over the next ten years which is expected to create job security and increased employment opportunities. Median pay for dental assistants across the United States is $34,500 per year, with the highest paying jobs found in metropolitan areas.
Certified Nursing Assistant
A certified nursing assistant (CNA) takes delegation from a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Nurse (RN) and assists with patient care. Basic duties include taking vital signs, performing wellness checks and assisting with patient needs such as nutrition, hygiene and routine health maintenance, such as administering medications. As CNA, you will be responsible for the majority of patient interaction within in-patient care settings such as hospitals, hospice centers nursing homes and assisted living centers. You will need to have excellent personal skills, as well as communication skills, as well as be in good physical shape as you will be walking, lifting and standing throughout your shift.
Programs to become a CNA are approximately 6 weeks long, include both clinical and classroom time, and will require that you pass a certification exam when you complete the course. While this education is short, it open doors to continued education in the nursing field, which is one of the most popular and important fields in healthcare. Job growth for CNAs over the next ten years is predicted to be faster than average, reflecting the need for trained healthcare employees across the nation. The mean annual wage for a CNA is $26,020, which means you can expect to make $12.51 per hour as a Certified Nursing Assistant (BLS, 2013). The potential to earn even more exists within this career path, as there are often opportunities for overtime and holiday/weekend pay in many healthcare employment settings.
Patient Care Technician
A patient care technician (PCT) is an important part of the healthcare team and performs duties to similar to a CNA in settings like rehabilitation centers, in-patient care centers and hospitals. A Patient Care Technician is essential to providing high quality patient care, as you will have more patient contact than many other care team members. In the medical field, PCT’s can have many other names such as nurse’s aide, hospital assistant and nurse’s assistant, to name a few. In addition to performing the duties listed with these roles, many PCTs are trained to perform electrocardiogram testing and blood draws.
Most PCT programs are approximately one year long and include courses in First Aid, CPR, medical terminology, basic lab procedures and phlebotomy. After you complete your patient care technician program, you can obtain your certified nursing assistant (CNA) certification by passing national certification exams. You can also choose to become a certified patient care technician/assistant (CPCT/A) by passing that exam. Both certifications have the potential to increase job security and pay. Average national pay for a CPCT/A can be equated with that of CNAs, which is $12.51 per hour or $26,020 annually for Patient Care Technicians (BLS, 2013). Keep in mind that after you complete your CPCT/A requirements, you have many educational opportunities to advance your career even further, making this choice a great one is you are interested in going into healthcare even further.
Medical Billing & Coding
A medical billing and coding specialist is responsible for submitting billing information to medical insurance companies for work performed. Billing and coding specialists generally work in medical offices, hospitals, in-patient care centers, nursing homes and many more medical settings. As a medical coding and billing specialist, you may hold a position in the office that adds other responsibilities, such as a receptionist, office manager or administrative assistant. This profession is very similar to that of a medical records and health information technician, in that they both operate to organize and manage health information and billing data.
To become a certified medical billing and coding specialist, you will need to complete a medical billing and coding diploma program. Programs will train you in the areas of translating alphanumeric medical code, understanding insurance policy, handling sensitive information, patient billing and understanding rules and regulations of the healthcare industry. After graduating from the program, you will need to pass an exam to become a Certified Medical Coder (CMC). Maintaining your CMC status will require 36 hours of continued education per year.
A pharmacy technician assists the pharmacist with filling and receiving prescriptions, by preparing prescriptions, preparing insurance claim forms and assisting the patient. As a pharmacy technician you will need to have great communication and personal skills, as well as good attention to detail as you will be working with exact measurements and medication dosages.
As a pharmacy technician, you will learn either through on the job training or by completing an formal diploma program. While on the job training is still the entry to this job in some locations, the only way to quality for your pharmacy technician certification (CPhT), is to complete a pharmacy technology program through an accredited school and pass the certification exam. Pharmacy tech programs train you in the areas of prescription and over-the-counter medication identification and action, substance abuse and misuse, medication dosages and pharmacy operations.
Earning your certificate after graduation can help secure employement, and can likely lead to increased pay and higher job security. Job growth for pharmacy technicians is projected to increase over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, making it a solid career choice. You can expect to near a median annual wage of $30,840 as a pharmacy technician, according to the BLS, 2013.
Surgical technicians are a part of the surgical team and are essential to ensuring that an operating room (OR) functions smoothly and safely. A surgical technician is responsible for preparing the operating room, sterilizing and setting up equipment and assisting the surgeon with supplies and instruments during an operation. To become a surgical technician, you will need to complete a hospital training program or an accredited degree program. In both types of training, you will learn about anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, patient care, operation procedures and proper handling of surgical equipment.
A career as a surgical technician can be quite exciting and requires attention to detail, good organization and excellent communication skills. After graduating with your surgical technology degree, you can increase your employment opportunities and job security by passing a national certification exam, several of which are available. These certifications show job competency to future employees and may result in increased pay. Keep in mind that within the current landscape of healthcare, many institutions require certification, in order to verify your competency as a surgery tech. The job outlook for surgical technicians is predicted to increase at a rate faster than average in the next ten years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and you can expect to earn a median annual wage of $44,420 as a surgical technician (BLS, 2013).