Medical Assistant Resources

Medical Assistant ResourcesThe Medical Assistant’s Career Outlook

Between 2006 and 2016, employment for medical assistants is expected to increase by 35 percent, a number much higher than the national average. With the growth of the health care field and more attention being paid to the disbursement of responsibilities in medical offices, medical assistants are considered a “high demand” field in almost every state.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

There are two sides to the medical assisting job: administrative tasks and clinical duties. How much of one or the other a medical assistant will do depends entirely on the individual’s strengths and the specific needs of the employer.

For example, a medical assistant with a strong ability to ease patient fears might spend more time working directly on patients, while a practice with several employees might ask its medical assistants to spend more time during the day making sure the office paperwork is in order.

On the administrative side of things, medical assistants may find themselves filing medical records, filling out insurance forms, answering phones, scheduling appointments, making arrangements with other health care organizations, or even sending out bills.

On the clinical side of things, medical assistants may take vital signs (like blood pressure or heartbeats), discuss treatment procedures, take medical histories, perform lab testing, sterilize instruments, and even assist the physician during the examination. In some states, medical assistants have further authority to draw blood, change dressings, remove stitches, perform EKGs, and even give injections.

Where Do Medical Assistants Work?

Most medical assistants find employment in physician offices, including those of specialty physicians like podiatrists, chiropractors, or dermatologists. Jobs are also available in hospitals, outpatient facilities, and resident care centers.

How Much Money Do Medical Assistants Earn?

The typical medical assistant earns between $22,000 and $30,000 per year; an average of about $12.50 per hour for a 40-hour work week. The higher wages are typically offered at hospitals, while specialized offices (like those of chiropractors or optometrists) can be found at the lower end of the wage spectrum.

What Education Do Medical Assistants Have?

Contrary to what many private educational and vocational training facilities declare, medical assistants do not have to attend schooling.

One- or two-year programs are common, but many medical assistants are actually trained on the job, either having been hired to get trained or promoted after spending time working in a similar capacity. This trend, however, is on its way out as more and more educational programs become available.

For those who wish to go to health care school to get formal training in the field, the options include vocational schools, private institutions, and community colleges. Of these, community college is the most affordable option; many of the private and vocational schools offer faster-paced training (usually in as little as nine months), but the financial costs tend to be much higher.

What Should Students Expect at School?

The cost of education is also not necessarily a factor in what kind of degree a medical assistant will get. Some of the private schools offer only diplomas or certifications, while others (community colleges included) often offer Associate of Science degrees. However, it should be noted that AS degrees typically take up to two years and include general education requirements.

When undergoing an educational course, medical assisting students should expect to study anatomy, physiology, medical vocabulary, basic computer skills, insurance processing, billing, lab techniques, first aid, medical ethics, and communication.

Oftentimes, this training is rounded out with an externship or internship, which places students directly in an office to polish off their real-world skills. Although there are exceptions, these externships are usually unpaid.

Although many schools offer online training programs for medical assistants, the nature of the work makes it a primarily hands-on educational process. Prospective students should be wary of schools that claim to offer a complete educational degree in medical assisting completely through the Internet.

Other things to be wary of when selecting a school include no certification exam options, lengthy programs that don’t end in an AS degree, and exorbitantly high tuition costs.

What Certifications are Required to Become a Medical Assistant?

Medical assisting certification is not required by law, but most employers prefer to hire those who are certified (certified medical assistants also typically command higher wages).

Most medical assistants should plan on becoming certified through the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants. The CMA (Certified Medical Assistant) credential is the highest standard of professional excellence.

To achieve this, students must graduate from an accredited program (the program must be accredited through either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools), and graduates must pass the necessary exam.

In some cases, several years of employment in the medical assistant capacity can also serve as enough experience to qualify for the exam.

Medical Assistants Today

Overall, medical assistants have a solid place in the health care community. Job security is fairly high, and wages will only increase along with demand.

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