Professional Medical Assistant: Career Description

Types of Professional Medical Assistants

Clinical Medical Assistants

If you are a clinical medical assistant, most of your responsibilities will take place in a clinical setting, rather than an office setting. This means you will work more closely with the patients, handling duties such as taking down medical histories, recording vital statistics, getting patients ready to see the doctors, and helping the doctor during the examination. You might also be responsible for other clinical tasks such as working with lab specimens, applying or removing dressings, performing EKG testing, or doing blood draws.

Specialized Medical Assistants 

As a medical assistant, you may be interested in a particular specialty. For example, a medical assistant in the specialty of cardiology would have additional duties that are specific to that field, some of which may require extra training. These duties might include administering stress electrocardiograms, checking Coumadin levels, and applying Holter monitors to patients. A medical assistant in obstetrics might assist with minor in-office surgery, help with infertility injection treatments, or fill out lab requisitions for pap smears. Some medical assistants are lab specialists, and assist doctors with urinalysis, hematology, pharmacology, and other tests.

Clerical Medical Assistants

If you are more inclined toward office work, you may want to be a clerical medical assistant. In this role, you would help to ensure that the administrative functions of the office are running smoothly. Your tasks might involve answering phones, making and rescheduling patient appointments, receiving patients at the front desk, taking care of the day’s mail, and helping to organize paperwork.

Administrative Medical Assistants

Administrative and clerical medical assistants have similar jobs, but the administrative assistants have more patient-related responsibilities. If you are an administrative medical assistant, your duties might include managing patient files, helping patients with hospital admissions procedures, processing insurance claim forms, assisting with patient billing, and scheduling lab tests for patients.

Where Professional Medical Assistants Work

Medical Assistants are needed in many different healthcare settings. As a medical assistant, you may find work in a medical facility such as a:

  • Hospital
  • Outpatient center
  • Doctor’s practice
  • Urgent care center
  • Specialist’s office
  • University or college
  • Other healthcare institution

Medical Assistant Curriculum

Our curriculum uses a hands-on approach to learning. You will learn the subject matter and the technical skills you need to become a medical assistant. Students who complete our program successfully are prepared to sit for national certification exams. The curriculum covers the following topics and more:

  • The human body: anatomy and physiology
  • Understanding medical terminology
  • Clinical procedures and patient care
  • Common medications and pharmacology
  • Office skills, including computer skills and communications skills

Occupational Outlook for Medical Assistants

The job outlook for professional medical assistants is excellent. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of medical assistants is expected to grow by 31 percent from the years 2010 to 2020. This rate is much faster than the average for all occupations.

The handbook explains that hiring medical assistants is cost-effective, because medical assistants can handle day-to-day administrative and clinical duties, which frees up doctors’ time to see more patients. The handbook says, “Assistants will likely continue to be used in place of more expensive workers, such as nurses, to reduce costs.”

Another factor that will increase demand for medical assistants is the aging of our population. With improvements in medicine and technology, people are living longer. This trend contributes to the higher demand for healthcare workers.

The use of electronic health records may also increase the need for medical assistants. The handbook explains, “As more and more physicians’ practices switch to electronic health records (EHRs), medical assistants’ job responsibilities will continue to change. Assistants will need to become familiar with EHR computer software, including maintaining EHR security and analyzing electronic data, to improve healthcare information.”

Because of these and other trends, the job outlook for medical assistants is  projected to be excellent, especially for those assistants who have certification, computer skills, and on-the-job experience.

Salary and Wage Trends for Medical Assistants

What can you expect to make as a medical assistant? A good place to learn about wage and salary trends is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. Here you can find the annual median wage for professional medical assistants. Be aware that salaries across the country can vary because of factors such as where you live, your level of experience, your skill set, and the type of medical facility where you work.

Earning a certification is one way that you can improve your job opportunities and job security. In addition, as you gain more experience and perform well in your job, you can expect your income to increase.

Salaries by Industry: Different sectors of the medical industry may offer different salaries to medical assistants. You can learn about the income of medical assistants in each industry through the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This resource lists the mean wages in the following areas of the medical industry:

  • Offices of physicians and other health practitioners
  • General medical and surgical hospitals
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Ambulatory health care services
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools
  • Science, research, and development services
  • Insurance-related services

Geographic Location: A report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that salaries of medical assistants vary a great deal based on geographic locations. This resource shows the states that have the highest mean salaries among medical assistants, as well as the states with the highest concentration of medical assistant jobs.

Getting Certified as a Medical Assistant

Getting certified can jump-start your career! At the Salter School, we strongly recommend to our graduates that they sit for a certification exam. Certification shows potential employers that you are competent in the skills needed for the job. Medical assistants with certification typically have better job opportunities and more job stability.

Students who have successfully completed the Professional Medical Assistant program at Salter will be prepared for the Registered Medical Assistant exam, offered through the American Medical Technologists.  We also suggest the Certified Electronic Health Records Specialists certification, offered through the National Healthcareer Association.

Depending on your campus and your interests, you may be eligible for additional certification exams, such as the Phlebotomist Technician exam, offered through the American Medical Technologists

In most of our locations, certification exams are held at an off-campus location, and are not covered in your tuition. Remember, with a certification, you will be entering the job market with proven, marketable skills. It’s worth the effort!

Still Trying to Decide?

Still trying to decide which program is right for you? At Salter, we offer numerous career-focused programs that may interest you. Take your time and review our list of programs. We want your new career to begin with us.