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Medical Assisting 101

Medical assisting students discussing work on a whiteboard

Everyone knows what doctors do. Same with nurses. But in any hospital, doctor’s office or clinic, there are hundreds of other people filling dozens of other jobs, working to keep people healthy. Among them all, there’s one job that’s particularly important, and always in demand: Medical Assistant.

If you’re drawn to the healthcare field but not sure exactly what you want to do, understanding who medical assistants are and what they do can be really helpful.

So, what exactly does a medical assistant do?

One of the key things that makes medical assistants so in demand is that they’re flexible,  trained to perform both administrative and clinical tasks. On a day-to-day basis, medical assistants might find themselves greeting patients, updating their medical files or even drawing blood and assisting with an X-ray exam.

Here’s a list of some, but not all, of the tasks you might be performing as a medical assistant:

  • Taking a patient’s medical history
  • Inputting and maintaining a patient’s file
  • Preparing and filling out admission forms
  • Recording vital signs
  • Drawing blood
  • Greeting and preparing patients for their appointments
  • Preparing examination rooms
  • Sterilizing and setting up equipment
  • Aiding physicians during examinations
  • Preparing lab samples for testing
  • Administering medications or immunizations

If you’re someone who craves variety in your work routine, you’ll find your groove in medical assisting. From the people you’ll interact with to the tasks you’ll perform, no two days are ever the same.

It’s also common for medical assistants to discover through their variety of experiences that they’re passionate about one side of the profession more than another.

If you go into the field and discover that you prefer the side of the job that involves organizing information, you can choose to specialize in the field of administrative medical assisting. If, on the other hand, you find yourself interested in interacting with patients and performing tasks like drawing blood or removing stitches, you can choose to specialize in clinical medical assisting.

An associate’s degree in medical assisting can open the door to a lot of different jobs in the medical field, including:

  • Administrative medical assistant
  • Admissions clerk
  • Chiropractic assistant
  • Clinical assistant
  • Home health aide
  • Hospice aide
  • Medical office assistant

Working as a medical assistant can also be great practical experience that serves as a springboard to pursuing a nursing degree.

Are there are a lot of medical assistant jobs?

Glad you asked. The short answer is “yes.”

Medical assistants are in high demand. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities are expected to increase by 29 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Why are there more opportunities? Well, with more people having access to health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act and an aging baby boomer population that needs lots of care, there’s simply more work for medical assistants to do.

Medical assistants can also work in a  variety of different settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 57 percent of medical assistants work at the office of physicians, 15 percent are employed in hospitals, nine percent work in outpatient care centers and about four percent work in chiropractors’ offices.

With this range of options, you can decide on a workplace that best suits your skills and interests. If you prefer working 9 to 5, then a physician’s office might work better for you; if you like a fast-paced environment and feel ready to take on challenges such as working overnight and on weekends, then working at a hospital can be right for you.

When it comes to compensation, a medical assistant earns on average $14.80 per hour, while a certified medical assistant earns on average $15.50. Of course, that can vary from state to state, work setting and professional experience. 

How does a medical assistant different from a nurse? 

Medical assistants and nurse practitioners sometimes share some of the same duties, but they have different levels of education and certification.

LPNs and RNs must obtain a license, which they can get after completing their training and passing a licensure examination. Medical assistants, on the other hand, can choose to get certified if they want.

If they do, they take an exam administered by the American Association for Medical Assistants. While not necessary, the certification can give them an edge in the job market. 

How can I become a medical assistant?

Now we’re talking. One advantage of being a medical assistant is that the requirements are very clear.

You’ll need a high school diploma or GED to enroll in the Bryant & Stratton College AAS Medical Assisting program. This is a 62-credit degree you can finish in less than two years if you study full time. A big chunk of your classes will revolve around healthcare subjects, but you’ll also develop your technology, research and writing skills.

As always, all the classes will be very hands-on and industry-focused.

If you’re ready to keep on learning about being a medical assistant, you can keep going here or start your application here.


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