Medical Assistant Training – Degrees and Career Paths

Medical assistants do much of the administrative and some clinical work in a healthcare office. While not able to examine, diagnose or treat patients, these professionals handle many of the day-to-day tasks in an office, from taking measurements like patient weight to maintaining equipment. Some may specialize in ophthalmology and instruct patients on proper contact lens care, conduct preliminary tests or develop X-rays, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011.

 The Administrative duties of a medical assistant may include filling out and filing patient records, scheduling appointments and tests, bookkeeping and handling insurance forms. Clinical assistants on the other hand may change dressings, take blood for testing, authorize prescription refills, administer medication and perform basic laboratory tests.


What education is needed to become a medical assistant?

Medical assistant training comes in various forms. Those interested in this career path pursue a one or two year program resulting in certification or an associate’s degree. Students study anatomy, physiology and medical terms as well as clerical duties like transcription and accounting. Courses of study may also include lab techniques, diagnostic procedures, first aid, medical law and pharmaceutical principle studies, according to the BLS. Some programs may also include internship opportunities for on-site training.

The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and the Association of Medical Technologists (AMT) provide certification credentials for medical assistants that symbolize a standard level of education. Certificates vary depending on specialization, such as general medicine, podiatry and optometry.

Medical Assistants may also pursue further education, becoming nurses or earning supervisory and administrative duties.


What kinds of jobs are available for medical assistants?

These healthcare professionals all perform the same basic duties, with slight variations based on their chosen type of practice. While some find jobs in hospitals, colleges, outpatient facilities and other large medical centers, the majority work in private practices with physicians. Some medical assistants find work in psychiatric and substance abuse facilities as well. Specializations for medical assistants to pursue include chiropractic medicine, ophthometry, podiatry, pediatrics, geriatrics and ambulatory healthcare.


What is the average salary for a medical assistant?

Those with medical assistant training earned an average salary of $29,760 between all specializations in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics. Those working in a private practice typically earned $30,110, while psychiatric hospitals paid the highest average of $39,220. Alaska, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts are the top paying states, with average salaries of more than $35,000.


What do career prospects for medical assistants look like?

According to the BLS, the job opportunities for medical assistants will increase by 34 percent by 2018. As one of the fastest growing careers from 2008-2018, career openings are estimated to surpass 163,000 over the 10-year span. Increasing cases of obesity and diabetes in the U.S. will bolster demand in this field, and more doctors are expected to make use of medical assistants in order to allow them to treat more patients a each day.


What are the benefits of going into a medical assistant career?

Medical assistants work in clean, well-lit facilities and typically are employed full time, 40-hour a week. Additionally, some are assigned weekend and night shifts. This rewarding industry provides frequent interaction with a wide variety of people, including children and the elderly. Many professionals in this field have full medical benefits, and generally have excellent advancement opportunities, especially with continued education. While these jobs can be demanding physically and mentally, they are often extremely emotionally rewarding, like many other positions in healthcare.


*Source Reference: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.