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What is the Role of a Medical Assistant?

What Is the Role of a Medical Assistant?

COD Newsroom / Flickr / CC BY

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a medical assistant, your first question was probably, “What exactly does a medical assistant do?” It’s a tricky question to ask because medical assistants have perhaps the most varied role in the medical field. Yes, even more than nurses.

Don’t believe us? Let’s look into the details here.

Clinical and Administrative: The Core Components

The main reason why medical assistants can do so much around a hospital or clinic is that medical assistant courses combine clinical training with administration. They start with subjects like medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and patient care. Related to this, students also often learn skills like phlebotomy, electrocardiography, and pharmacology.

On the administrative side, medical assistants also learn about medical insurance, medical billing, and medical coding. What does this dual role mean for the day-to-day activities of medical assistants?

A DAY AS A MEDICAL ASSISTANT

A DAY AS A MEDICAL ASSISTANT

Anoto AB / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

Basically, you can expect to move to where you’re needed. If the nurses and phlebotomists need help taking blood or conducting lab tests, you can step in to assist them there.

If the medical billing and coding department needs help, you can go help them instead. If one of these roles really clicks with you, it’s possible to look for a job in that particular field or seek more education to further specialize.

But in general, a medical assistant’s job duties come down to being a flexible member of a big team. They’re the firefighters, moving to where they’re needed most.

This role is absolutely critical as it makes an enormous difference in how the overall team functions in a hospital or clinic. Therefore, medical assistants should be detailed-oriented and reliable team players, always ready to step up.

Career Prospects for Medical Assistants

As we mentioned, one advantage of being a medical assistant is flexibility. If you’re broadly interested in working in the medical field but unsure of what roles you may enjoy, starting as a medical assistant makes a lot of sense. First, the educational requirements make this a great starting point.

CERTIFIED MEDICAL ASSISTANT TRAINING

Certified medical assistant training

BC Gov Photos / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

Compared to doctors and nurses, the training required to become a certified medical assistant is far more accessible and affordable. Instead of a four-year science degree plus medical school and a residency, a medical assistant certificate can often be obtained in less than one year of training.

After completing a training program most medical assistants seek certification by passing a registry/certification exam. These exams are generally taken through the American Medical Technologists (AMT) or the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).

So, instead of jumping right into a long-term educational program that may lead to a career that isn’t right for you, you can use the medical assistant career path as a stepping stone. Becoming a medical assistant allows you to learn more about the healthcare field and exposes you to a number of different career opportunities that exist out there.

There are still more reasons to consider a medical assistant career.

MEDICAL ASSISTANT SALARY AND JOB GROWTH

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for medical assistants will grow 23% (much faster than average) between 2014 and 2024. In short, this is one of the fastest growing career paths in medicine today.

Their median pay for 2015 was $30,590, but there’s a lot of variation within that, depending on whether they worked in an outpatient center or a smaller doctor’s office.

Again, medical assistants have the flexibility to find what role works best for them. You can look for administrative work in a medical office or direct patient care in a clinic or hospital.

Still, the field is always changing fast with new laws and technology coming to the forefront to shift the ways that all kinds of medical workers do their jobs.

COMPARING THE ALTERNATIVES

Taking all of this information together, there are clear advantages to becoming a medical assistant compared to other career paths like becoming a certified nursing assistant.

You can read a full breakdown of those differences here. But taken as a whole, it’s hard to beat the excitement and flexibility of the medical assistant field.

Starting a Medical Assistant Career

If you’re interested in exploring your options for how to become a medical assistant, you can read more on our MA Program Page. There, you’ll find even more information about educational requirements, career options, and start dates.