How to Become a Medical Assistant
With over 75 million aging baby boomers in need of more support and care the demand for healthcare professionals is expected to increase greatly. That’s good news for those who want to become medical assistants: the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that between 2014 and 2024, we’ll see nearly 138,900 new medical assistant jobs open up across the country.1
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Medical assistants are diverse: They usually work in physicians’ practices and perform a variety of duties. Think of a medical assistant as half-office-assistant and half-clinical assistant.
Because they work the front of the office as well as in the clinic itself, they usually the first person a patient sees when they walk into a physician’s office.
They help keep the business running. They schedule patient appointments, answer phones and file records and insurance authorizations. Medical assistants are usually organized people who like to interact with the public and enjoy the interplay between the office and clinical settings.
On the clinical side of things, hands-on tasks vary. In a general medical setting, a medical assistant might take medical histories, prepare blood tests or administer injections. They might take patients’ blood pressure or help them understand medications and special diets.
A specialized practice, such as a podiatrist’s office or chiropractic clinic, may require different duties. For example, at an ophthalmologist’s or optometrist’s office, a medical assistant may assist with basic vision tests or with teach patients how to care for and use contact lenses.2
How Much Do Medical Assistants Make?
Medical assistants are cross-trained to work in both the office and clinic, which can make them marketable.
The BLS says that the most recent (2014) median annual salary for a Medical Assistant was $29,960 or $14.41 per hour working a 40 hour work week. That means that half of those in the profession made more than that, and half made less.2
The best-paid ten percent? They made nearly over $42,760 in 2014.3
Demand for Medical Assistants is expected to grow by 23 percent from 2014 through 2024. That’s much faster than average for all occupations.4
Please keep in mind employment and income cannot be guaranteed by any educational institution for students or graduates. Additionally, salary data cited in this article is based on median data provided by the United States Department of Labor, does not reflect starting or entry level salaries, and can vary widely based on geographic location.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Medical Assistant?
Depending on the state you live in you can become a medical assistant with no education other than a high school diploma however most employers look to hire applicants who have attended a formal medical assisting program. Programs are usually offered at career schools, technical colleges and community colleges and can take about a year to complete.
Although no formal training is required to become a medical assistant, most typically receive some kind of education after high school. Some states now require medical assistants to be a graduate of an accredited program or pass a certifying exam.