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Have you ever considered entering the medical field, but do not necessarily have the time, inclination, or resources to study to become a nurse or physician? Are you passionate about helping people and would like to make a palpable difference in the lives of patients? If so, a career as a medical assistant might be just the one for you, and you will reap the benefits of a medical assistant salary.
Medical assistants are not licensed like doctors or nurses, but they play a valuable role in the assessment, care, and preparation of patients in addition to fulfilling a wide array of administrative duties. This comprehensive guide covers the essential aspects of the role, job potential, and the typical medical assistant salary to help you decide if a career in this field might be right for you.
What Is a Medical Assistant?
Before examining the components of a medical assistant salary, it is important to understand what the job itself entails. Medical assistants work closely with physicians, primarily in medical offices and clinics, such as an outpatient care facility. Depending on the state, some medical assistants perform substantial duties assisting physicians in a hospital setting.
The scope of a medical assistant’s role and the particular job duties assigned are dependent greatly on the area in which you live, as the state serves to regulate what tasks can be performed and which must be carried out by a licensed professional. However, medical assistants must always be supervised by a physician or licensed nurse regardless of the state.
Medical assistant tasks vary between office, practice area, and state, but there area number of standard duties associated with the job. The role requires you to perform both clinical and administrative functions. Administrative aspects include computer work, reception duties, compiling and filing records for patients, greeting old and new patients, handling insurance forms, setting appointments, coordinating hospital and laboratory visits, and taking care of any necessary written correspondence. Medical assistants may also handle the billing and bookkeeping for their office.
The clinical duties required of a medical assistant are many and varied, including conducting initial assessments and attending to patients, performing tests, and preparing patients for procedures. Initial assessment aspects require you to examine vital signs such as pulses, breathing, temperature and blood pressure. Medical assistants take the patient’s height and weight and fill out the individual’s medical history for the doctor to look over.
As a medical assistant, you might aid patients with mobility issues to perform simple daily tasks and hygienic functions. If you are required to perform tests on patients, this will be at the behest of the doctor with directions typically provided in the form of written protocols. Medical assistants often take blood samples from patients, prepare the specimens, and send them to the laboratory.
If someone comes in for tests or a treatment, it is the medical assistant’s job to prepare the patient physically, including helping the individual undress for the procedure ahead. As a medical assistant, you would also likely explain the procedure to the patient, assist the doctor when any exam is being performed, and follow up with any instructions regarding dietary and medication orders given by the supervising physician.
Medical assistants are often authorized to ready medications for patients as ordered by the doctor, order refills of necessary prescriptions, conduct electrocardiograms, and change bandages and dressings. The role itself is multi-faceted, requiring a great attention to detail and the ability to handle many diverse tasks at once. You might be answering phones, distributing mail, preparing forms, taking blood samples, changing wound dressings, and performing a vision and hearing test back to back.
What Medical Assistant Jobs Are There?
The type of medical assistant you become may affect the medical assistant salary you ultimately receive. There are three main types of specialities within the field, the first of which is a clinical medical assistant. Clinical medical assistants perform all the typical duties and tasks discussed previously and are required to complete an accredited education program.
The program usually takes a year to obtain a certificate and about two years if you want to earn an associate’s degree. The job requires a deep knowledge of medicine and the human body, so you will have clinical practicums to receive hands-on training and experience.
Jobs Requiring Certification
If you would like to earn a higher medical assistant salary, you might want to consider becoming a certified or registered medical assistant. You will also experience more career latitude as a certified professional. Employers usually prefer to hire certified medical assistants based on the additional knowledge and expertise gained through the accredited program required.
In order to earn this degree, you must train through a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. If you choose to become a Certified Medical Assistant through the American Association of Medical Assistants, you must pass a 200 question, multiple-choice examination and gain recertification every 5 years.
The accreditation of Registered Medical Assistant can be obtained through an organization known as the American Medical Technologists. There are certain requirements that must be met to qualify for the exam such as employment and education history. You must take continuing education courses every 3 years.
Finally, an administrative medical assistant mainly handles the office administration aspects of the role, focusing less on clinical procedures. This can affect your overall medical assistant salary if you choose this route, but you can still make a comfortable living and enjoy some room for mobility.
To become an administrative medical assistant, you usually need to complete a few months of training through an accredited university or college, community college, or technical institution.
What Is an Average Medical Assistant Salary?
The average medical assistant salary typically falls between $32,000 and $37,000 per year. However, this is a general set of figures, as your education, experience, and area of focus makes a great difference in your earning potential in the long run.
If you dedicate yourself to the profession and put in the time and effort it takes to become educated, certified, and skilled within the field, there is definite room for considerable growth. In fact, the medical assistant field is one of the fastest growing in the nation, as there is an increased demand for qualified medical professionals to assist physicians, meet technological demands, and fulfill diverse patient needs.
While the average medical assistant salary range comes between $32,000 and $37,000 per year, most individuals newer to the field come in right in the middle, earning about $35,000 per year. Your earning potential is directly affected by how much education you have. If you have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, your opportunities will be much greater than if you had a high school diploma or no degree at all.
Since the career has skyrocketed in terms of demand and popularity, this also means that the competition is greater. Gaining all the education and experience you can will serve you well in the long run and make you stand out to employers.
Your medical assistant salary also depends on who you report to, your applicable skills and job experience, and whether you have anyone reporting to you directly. As with any field, it takes time and patience to advance, gain more knowledge, and hone your skill set to increase your earning potential. The medical assistant salary is no different in this respect.
The office you work in, the size of the practice, and its area of speciality may also affect your medical assistant salary. Smaller offices might not have as large a financial base to work with while larger clinics or hospitals are in a better position to pay more.
If you are interested in embarking on this career path and would like to earn on the higher end of the medical assistant salary spectrum, it is advised that you complete an accredited program and earn a certified designation in the field. Check on the requirements in your state to see what regulations apply to the substantive duties you will be allowed to perform and any tasks you may be barred from completing based on relevant local laws.
Working as a medical assistant can be an exciting, rewarding career. The role is incredibly varied, the field is growing by leaps and bounds in terms of demand, and the job itself offers plenty of opportunities for upward mobility. If you want to increase your medical assistant salary earning potential, be sure to take the time to research and select an accredited program where you live and consider becoming a certified or registered medical assistant. This will not only improve your earning capabilities but also allow you to gain additional viable skills and expertise in the field.
To be successful as a medical assistant, you will need to have the extensive medical knowledge pertinent to the role, possess strong administrative and clerical skills, an eagerness to learn, and a drive to succeed. Time, experience, and opportunity are key to enhancing your medical assistant salary. If you take the time to receive the experience and education that will draw excellent prospective employers, you will have the opportunity to gain exceptional hands-on training and skills you would not otherwise be afforded.