Do you have a passion for helping people? Do you also have an interest in understanding health and recognize how small actions make a big impact when it comes to living better, longer lives? If so, a career as a medical assistant could be for you.
But what do medical assistants do? Are there different types of Medical Assistants? And let’s get down to it–how much could I make as a medical assistant? Let’s do a Q&A on MA below.
Why Be a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants, or MA’s could be referred to as the heartbeat of a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic. They log and keep confidential patient records, check vital signs, and make sure that all information is entered correctly and keeps everything running smoothly so that all the other team members can do their jobs better. A great MA will save patients’ and health professionals’ both time and money, and when you’re in the medical industry, every second counts. Also, the overall job outlook for a medical assistant is excellent: it’s expected to grow 23%–a much higher rate than other job fields.
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
MA’s don’t just check vital signs, although it’s a big part of their job. They’re vital to the health industry. Here’s how:
Medical assistants perform both clerical and clinical duties related to the medical industry.
The clerical work could be doing administrative tasks like paperwork and inputting proprietary or personal patient information that needs to be on record before a patient gets seen for an appointment. Clinical duties would include performing procedures in a lab or clinic and handling equipment, samples, and do preliminary medical examinations.
On any given day, medical assistants might do the following:
- Document patient history and personal information
- Check and record vital signs, such as blood pressure
- Assist the doctor with patient examinations
- Administer injections or medications (as directed by a doctor)
- Schedule patient appointments
- Prepare blood samples for lab tests
- Log and update patient information in medical records
Your medical assistant duties list will be different depending on where you work and there are some different types of medical assistant roles that are more specialized as well.
Different Types of Medical Assistant Jobs
Administrative medical assistants, or medical office specialists, performs many clerical tasks to keep medical offices organized and efficient, so doctors and nurses can focus on patient care.
Clinical medical assistants do laboratory tests, dispose of contaminated supplies, and sanitize medical equipment. They may work with patients about medication diet, or they could also help give patients x-rays, remove stitches, draw blood, or change bandages.
FYI, if you like working intimately with patients, nurse aides help with the long-term care of patients, especially those who are injured and elderly. Check out SCI’s nurse aide program here.
Some medical assistants specialize according to the type of medical office where they work, like ophthalmic medical assistants and optometric assistants. They assist ophthalmologists and optometrists provide eye care, while podiatric medical assistants work closely with podiatrists in helping with footcare.
Another item to note: medical assistants are sometimes confused by physician’s assistants who diagnose and treat patients under a doctor’s supervision and require more intensive training. Speaking of training, you may be wondering what the training is like…
What to Consider when Looking at Medical Assistant Training Programs
Certifications & skills taught
If you want to be a medical assistant, you need to be certified and have some hands-on-experience. If you type in “medical assistants” into an Indeed job search, you’ll see phrases come up like “experience with online medical records” & “hands-on phlebotomy experience.”
Pro Tip: When considering a program, look at more than the certifications they prepare you for. Look at what skills they train you on that companies are hiring for. For example, SCI’s medical assistant program prepares you to earn 7 different skills badges, including EKG monitoring & pharmacology. You’ll also be given the knowledge and the tools for success to pass up to 6 different certifications tests, including the CMAA (Certified Medical Administrative Assistant) exam.
Length of program
You will want to ask about the average length of the program and the way that the classes are taught that will work with your schedule and the way you learn best. Many colleges offer programs with associates that are two years in length or online programs that don’t offer in-person or on-the-job training. If you are a visual person and someone that learns better with personal attention in a hands-on environment, online learning may not be the best option for you. However, there are programs that do offer the convenience of schedule and save you time. SCI, for example, offers a course that can be completed in as little as 36 weeks, or 9 months. Plus, they offer 178 hours of on-the-job training via an externship, so you graduate with experience right out of the program.
So How Much do Medical Assistants Make?
The median salary for a medical assistant $31,540 per year or $15.17 per hour in 2016–over 2X minimum wage (BLS.gov). However, there is an opportunity to make more and be more competitive in the job market if you earn multiple certifications. A recent study showed that medical professionals who combined their CCMA with a CPT and CET reported an average earning of $1,650 more per year (NHA).
You might be thinking, “Great, so how do I get started learning to be a certified medical assistant?”
There are a lot of trade schools and programs you can take to learn the skills you need, but not all of them are accredited or get you to a point where you are prepared to get your license or certifications. Southern Careers Institute, however, is accredited by the Council of Occupational Education (COE) and approved by the Texas Workforce and the Career Colleges & Schools of Texas. You should also look at the school’s track record. Last year, SCI placed over 1,300 graduates were placed in new careers on our campuses online and throughout Texas–in Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and the Rio Grande Valley.* Learn more today and don’t miss your chance to say, “I got the job!” as a medical assistant in as little as 36 weeks.
*Based on graduates from July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016 who were placed in their field or a related field in accordance with reporting guidelines for the Council on Occupational Education.