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Chris Ostrander

Upward Mobility: Medical Assistant Career Path

If you're shopping around for career options and becoming a medical assistant is one that has made your short list, you'll probably want to know what the possibilities are in terms of upward mobility. Here we'll look into that question, going over options available to you with a medical assisting degree, as well as important things to consider as you outline a potential medical assistant career path.

Clinical Medical Assistant vs. Medical Administrative Assistant

Knowing the difference between these two basic types of medical assistants is essential to any discussion about a medical assistant career path. Medical administrative assistants, also commonly called medical secretaries, do not provide hands-on care to patients. Their role in a medical office, clinic or facility is strictly an administrative/business one. Duties may include medical coding and billing, records management, medical transcription, and patient scheduling.

Clinical medical assistants are responsible for some direct patient care as well as office duties. Clinical duties may include measuring vital signs, assisting physicians with exams, removing stitches, drawing blood, changing dressings, and performing basic laboratory tests. Non-clinical duties typically include scheduling patient appointments, collecting patient health histories and personal information, and documenting patient information in standard (paper) and/or electronic health records.

Medical Assistant Career Paths

You can become a clinical medical assistant by completing a Medical Assisting associate degree program to master both the clinical and administrative skills you'll need. To become a non-clinical medical assistant, a Medical Administrative Assistant associate degree program, which will focus on the administrative and business end of healthcare, is the way to go.

Earning your degree will give you the qualifications you need to get into the medical assisting field. Once you have begun to prove yourself, upward mobility can be had via a couple of different strategies.

  1. Advanced credentials are often key to advancement as a medical assistant.
  • Important credentials for upward mobility for clinical medical assisting include the CMA (Certified Medical Assistant) designation, and the R.M.A (Registered Medical Assistant) designation. Many employers require job candidates to hold one of these credentials to move beyond entry-level positions.
  • Administrative medical assistants can also open the door to more promising career opportunities by earning advanced credentials, such as CMAA (Certified Medical Administrative Assistant) or certifications in medical coding and billing.
        2. Specialization is another avenue for advancing from entry-level work to more challenging medical career jobs.
  • Among the more challenging specialties for clinical medical assistants are podiatry, pediatrics, ophthalmology, cardiology and emergency medicine. Medical assistants who work in these specialties will require advanced clinical skills and knowledge. These may be obtained via additional training courses that yield certifications/credentials for your chosen specialty, or some employers may offer on-the-job training for promising candidates.
  • Administrative medical assistants may require specialized training to develop expertise in administrative functions or technology specific to their chosen specialty.

So what are the potential benefits in terms of advanced credentials and specialization in terms of advancement? Medical assistants who show initiative by earning those credentials and taking on more challenging work in specialty fields are more likely to be considered for positions of greater responsibility. The possibilities include medical career jobs like clinical team leader, clinical office manager, lead medical assistant, medical records manager, executive medical office secretary or medical office manager. These opportunities offer you the upward mobility you need to build a solid and satisfying career.

For more information on degrees and certificates offered at Bryant & Stratton College for upwardly mobile medical assistants, check out our healthcare page or contact the Admissions office at 1.888.273.2758.

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