What Is a Medical Assistant? Job Description and Outlook

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What is a medical assistant and should you become one?

If you’re thinking about going back to school, you might consider a medical career. But many jobs in the medical field require lengthy degrees, exams, and certifications before you can begin your career.

One of the top allied health career options that doesn’t require years of schooling is the medical assistant role. 

Armed with some basic health care knowledge, you’re prepared to work with patients and handle behind-the-scenes work in a variety of medical settings.

Keep reading to learn more about this career option and the job outlook.

What Is a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant helps out with a variety of tasks that keep the medical facility running smoothly. They help with patients, both directly and indirectly, with simple patient care activities and administrative tasks. 

Medical assistants often help put patients at ease. They serve as a link between the patient and the doctor.

Medical assistants are completely different than physician assistants. A physician assistant is able to diagnose and treat patients during examinations under the supervision of a physician. Medical assistants can work with patients, but they can’t diagnose or treat them.

Duties of a Medical Assistant

The duties of medical assistant jobs vary depending on your experience and the facility with a mix of clinical and administrative duties. 

You’ll work directly with patients under the supervision of other medical professionals, including doctors and nurses. 

Some of the interactions you might have with patients include:

  • Gathering personal information and medical histories
  • Taking vital signs
  • Administering medications if allowed by state law
  • Injections
  • Assisting the physician during exams
  • Prepping patients for x-rays or other tests
  • Explaining procedures
  • Handling basic would care

You’ll also work behind the scenes, handling samples and medical records. Those tasks might include:

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Sending blood samples to the lab
  • Updating medical records
  • Answering phones
  • Sterilizing medical equipment
  • Greeting patients
  • Completely insurance forms
  • Stocking supplies

In small offices, medical assistants often do both patient care and paperwork with a wide range of duties. In larger practices, they might do one or the other with a more specific set of duties.

The specialty of the office can also impact the daily duties. While many medical assistants work in primary care offices, others work in specialty clinics. 

Some medical assistants work in optometrists’ offices. They would likely handle basic diagnostic vision tests.

Education Requirements

You aren’t required to have a specific degree to become a medical assistant. Most states don’t require medical assistants to have specific licensing or credentials.

While it’s possible to get a job without a degree and learn through hands-on training, most people earn a medical assistant certificate before entering the field.

You’ll increase your chances of landing a job in the field if you complete a certificate program first. Our Fairfield medical assistant course takes 45 weeks or 900 hours to complete. That means in less than a year, you can have a certificate that makes you a stronger candidate for employers.

The program covers insurance billing, bookkeeping, patient scheduling, and other administrative tasks. It teaches students about the human body, structure, and body systems. 

You’ll also learn skills for working directly with patients. This includes specimen collection, infection control, injections, patient prep, and sterilization methods.

You’ll need a strong understanding of medical terminology. This helps you when working directly with patients. It helps you better understand the instructions that the nurses and doctors give you.

The medical terminology is also important while charting patient information and handling medical billing.

Working Conditions

Medical assistants work in a variety of health care settings. The most common location is in a physician’s office. Hospitals also serve as an employer for medical assistants.

Duties often change each day. Medical assistants might spend large parts of the day on their feet and moving to different exam rooms.

You’ll also interact with patients on a regular basis, some of whom are sick or injured. People aren’t always at their best when they’re not feeling well. You might have to deal with difficult or unhappy patients at times.

Medical assistants often have lots of overlapping duties. You’ll need a strong sense of prioritizing tasks and juggling multiple things at once.

The schedule is typically full-time, although some medical assistants only work part-time. In clinic settings, the hours are typically daytime hours during the week. You might work occasional weekends if the practice has weekend hours.

If you work in a hospital, you might work evening and weekend hours. The schedule could be the same each week or vary.

Medical Assistant Salary

The median salary for a medical assistant is $33,610 per year for a full-time position. The median medical assistant salary is the half-way point where half of all medical assistants make less and half make more.

Pay depends largely on where you work, including the city and the type of medical facility. Your experience is also a factor. Having a certificate could help you start at a higher salary.

Job Outlook

The job outlook is much better than all occupations on average. From 2018 to 2028, the medical assistant career is expected to grow by 23%.

Primary care is a growing area of healthcare with new practices opening regularly. Since primary care is the most common type of practice for medical assistants, that increase in the industry is good for job growth.

An increasingly aging population is leaning more on preventative health options. This means medical practices need more staff members to keep things running smoothly, which may contribute to the increase of medical assistant jobs.

With the large projected growth, the medical assistant field offers stability. If you work full-time, you’ll have access to benefits as well.  

Become a Medical Assistant

Now that you can answer, “What is a medical assistant?” you’re better equipped to decide if this career path is right for you. With a strong job outlook, it could be the entry into the medical field you’ve been seeking.

If you’re ready to start a new career, check out our Fairfield medical assistant courses. It could be the perfect way to start an allied health career in about a year.

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