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How to Become a Medical Assistant

Medical Assistant Career Overview

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the health care sector to be the fastest growing industry over the next ten years and Medical Assisting is among the fastest growing careers in the health care sector1. People are living longer, the population is growing at a very rapid pace resulting in higher demand for health care services for the young and old alike.

Medical assisting careers have become so popular due to the short amount of time it takes to gain the education and certification needed to begin a well paying medical assistant job in a physician practice or hospital setting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 60% of medical assistants, also known as MAs, work in a physician practice setting while the remaining 40% are in specialty clinics, hospital settings, cancer and dialysis care clinics, blood banks, school offices, rehabilitation, correctional facilities and more.

A relatively new area for Medical assistants is in health spas or medical practices where Botox injections and other cosmetic procedures are being administered. The BLS forecasts that the best opportunities for medical assistants will be for those that are formally trained in vocational programs lasting 6 months to a year or those in 2 year programs resulting in an associate degree. Those medical Assistants holding a national certification in medical assisting will also be more competitive for the better paying positions. Click here to find an accredited Medical Assisting school near you or an online program. Learn more about Medical Assistant Schools and the various types of programs they offer before you make a decision. Many medical assistants advance their careers with further education and move into office manager roles as well as nursing positions. In fact, many individuals have first become Medical Assistants before they become an RN.

Medical Assistant Career Description

The job description and duties for medical assistants vary depending on office size and location. In a smaller or more rural office a medical assistant may take responsibility for the front office administrative tasks as well as the back office clinical tasks, such as drawing blood, taking vitals, rooming patients, and administering injections. In a larger practice the front office and back office are divided and the medical assistant role will primarily cover the clinical aspect of the practice. Speaking of clinical duties for medical assistants, while medical assistants are in school they are trained in phlebotomy, EKG and X-ray procedures.  A number of states are requiring that medical assistants have a specific license to perform phlebotomy, EKG and X-rays.

Medical Assistant Salaries

The BLS reported median annual salaries for medical assistants in May, 20122. One can in some cases expect these salaries to be a bit higher due to the growth of the health care industry and the rising demand for medical assistants across the country in more recent years. Salaries can obviously be lower in some geographic locations. BLS Medical Assistant Salaries:

Medical Assistants in Outpatient Centers $31,980
Medical Assistants in General and Surgical Hospitals $31,750
Medical Assistants in Physician Offices$30,740

According to the May, 2012 BLS salary data2, Alaska has the highest mean annual salary for medical assistants ($39,900) followed closely by District of Columbia ($37,800). These salary numbers will vary depending on size and location of facility as well as your years of experience and Medical Assistant Certification status.

The first step to take toward a medical assisting career is to choose an accredited medical assistant program.

*Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific curriculum, and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.

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1Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm#tab-6

2 Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319092.htm

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