Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in hospitals, offices of physicians, and other healthcare facilities.
What they do
Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.
Medical assistants typically do the following:
- Record patient history and personal information
- Measure vital signs, such as blood pressure
- Help physicians with patient examinations
- Give patients injections or medications as directed by physicians and as permitted by state law
- Schedule patient appointments
- Prepare blood samples for laboratory tests
- Enter patient information into medical records
Medical assistants take and record patients’ personal information. They must be able to keep that information confidential and discuss it only with other medical personnel who are involved in treating the patient.
Most medical assistants work full time. Some work evenings, weekends, or holidays to cover shifts in medical facilities that are always open.
How to become a Medical Assistant
Most medical assistants have a postsecondary education award such as a certificate. Others enter the occupation with a high school diploma and learn through on-the-job training.
Medical assistants typically graduate from postsecondary education programs. Although there are no formal educational requirements for becoming a medical assistant in most states, employers may prefer to hire assistants who have completed these programs.
Programs for medical assisting are available from community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and universities and take about 1 year to complete. These programs usually lead to a certificate or diploma. Some community colleges offer 2-year programs that lead to an associate degree. All programs have classroom and laboratory portions that include lessons in anatomy and medical terminology.
Some medical assistants have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn their duties on the job. High school students interested in a career as a medical assistant should take courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy, and possibly business and computers.
The median annual wage for medical assistants was $34,800 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,820, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $48,720.
Employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 19 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. The growth of the aging baby-boom population will continue to increase demand for preventive medical services, which are often provided by physicians. As a result, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians to see more patients.
Similar Job Titles
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Chiropractor Assistant, Administrative Medical assistant, Clinical Assistant, Doctor's Assistant, Medical Assistant (MA), Medical Office Assistant, Ophthalmic Technician, Optometric Assistant, Optometric Technician, Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
Pharmacy Technician, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse, Neurodiagnostic Technologist, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Physical Therapist Assistant
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Association of Medical Assistants - The mission of the American Association of Medical Assistants® is to provide the medical assistant professional with education, certification, credential acknowledgment, networking opportunities, scope-of-practice protection, and advocacy for quality patient-centered health care.
- American Medical Technologists - This organization has as its mission to encourage healthcare professionals to verify their skills and competence, learn and grow in their chosen profession, and maintain quality in the workplace. Of particular interest to educators and/or students is the ‘Get Students Started’ information.
- American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants - This organization’s goals is to elevate the standard of education of Podiatric Medical Assistants.
- National Healthcareer Association - This association is committed to develop, advance and advocate for the frontline healthcare worker, resulting in improved patient care.
Magazines and Publications
- CMA Today (AAMA publication)
When patients arrive for a medical appointment, it's the medical assistant who has prepared the treatment room and made sure equipment is ready for the doctor. With both patient care and administrative responsibilities, they help keep medical establishments running smoothly. Medical assistants often perform several tasks during an appointment. They may measure vital signs before the doctor arrives, assist with the examination, and enter patient information into medical records. Sometimes they may give patients medications. At the end of the appointment, they dispose of contaminated supplies or sterilize instruments for future use. In smaller practices, they may also schedule appointments and prepare samples for lab work, whereas many large practices encourage specialization in either administrative or clinical work. Medical assistants work in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and clinics. Most work full-time, including on holidays, nights, and weekends. Requirements to enter the field vary; some medical assistants hold a high school diploma, and learn their duties on the job. However, job applicants who have completed a short-term medical assistant certificate program, and passed a certification exam may have better opportunities. Regardless of where medical assistants work, they make life easier for the medical staff and their patients.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org