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Medical Assistants Job Description, Education, Wages and Career Outlook

Medical assistants perform clinical and administrative duties under the direction of physicians, chiropractors, podiatrists and other healthcare providers.



Posted 2010



Job description and duties for Medical assistants. Sometimes referred to as certified medical assistants (CMAs), doctor’s assistants and medical office assistants. Duties vary, but typically they prepare patients to be seen by the physician. They record medical history and measure vital signs, such as height, weight, blood pressure and heart rate. Medical assistants also perform administrative duties, often reporting to an office manager.

In larger practices, medical assistants may specialize. Administrative medical assistants update patient records, complete insurance forms and arrange for hospital admissions. They may greet patients, schedule appointments and process billing.

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Clinical medical assistants perform more direct patient care. They may collect laboratory specimens, assist physicians during examinations and sterilize medical instruments. Those with advanced training often draw blood, remove sutures and change dressings.

Medical Assistants Job Summary

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ranks medical assistants among the fastest-growing occupations in coming years.
  • The majority of medical assistants are employed by physicians.
  • The entry point for this occupation can be a high school diploma or a one- or two-year training program.
  • The BLS predicts job growth in this field will be much faster than average, with excellent job opportunities.

Work Environment for Medical Assistants

Medical assistants usually work in clean and well-lighted environments. They may experience stress as a result of handling several tasks at once. Some physical activity is typical, and medical assistants can be on their feet much of the work day. Most full-time medical assistants work 40 hours per week; part-timers may be required to work evenings and weekends.

Education, Training and Certification

Some medical assistants receive on-the-job training, but most have completed a formal medical assistants training program. Community, technical and junior colleges offer one- and two-year programs resulting in certificates or medical assistant degrees. Instruction typically includes courses in anatomy, physiology, medical ethics, pharmaceutical principals and medical terminology.

High school students interested in pursuing a medical assistant career should complete courses in mathematics, biology, chemistry, health and office skills. They may then apply for on-the-job training or admission to a formal training program. Volunteer experience in the healthcare field is also helpful.

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Medical assistants who wish to advance in their careers and earn higher salaries should become certified. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and the Association of Medical Technologists (AMT) award certification credentials to medical assistants; each organization has its own requirements and certification process. Certification in optometry, ophthalmology, podiatry and other specialty areas are also available to medical assistants.

Aspiring medical assistants must have the ability to communicate with physicians and the public, be well-groomed and conscientious. High integrity is an asset, as this occupation requires patient confidentiality. Attention to detail and the ability to follow directions are also important attributes for this career choice.

Jobs Outlook and Earnings for Medical Assistants

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records for May 2009 indicate that medical assistants held approximately 495,970 jobs; most worked in physicians’ offices. Other were employed by hospitals, other healthcare providers, outpatient care centers, and colleges and universities.

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What is the jobs outlook for medical assistants? The BLS predicts employment in this field will grow much faster than the average for all occupations. Job growth will occur as the result of the growth and aging of the population and associated demand for healthcare. Increasing use of medical assistants will allow physicians to see more patients.

How much do medical assistants earn? The BLS reports that medical assistants earned a median yearly salary of $28,650 in May 2009. The middle 50% earned between $24,060 and $33,760, while the lowest 10% earned about $20,750. The highest 10% earned upwards of $39,970 annually.

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