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Medical Assistant: Career Information


Nurse helping patient
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Job Description - Medical Assistant:

A medical assistant performs administrative and clinical tasks in the office of a physician or other medical practitioner. He or she may be responsible for either clinical or administrative tasks, or a combination of the two. Whether a medical assistant performs only administrative tasks, only clinical tasks or both often depends upon the size of the practice in which he or she works. Medical assistants in larger practices tend to specialize, while those in smaller practices do everything.

Employment Facts - Medical Assistant:

There were 484,000 medical assistants employed in the U.S. in 2008.

Educational Requirements - Medical Assistant:

Medical assistants have no formal education or training requirements, although most have a high school diploma. Many receive only on-the-job training while others complete a one to two year formal program.

Other Requirements - Medical Assistant:

Medical assistants are not required to be certified, but certification indicates that one is experienced and has received formal training. This may lead to better employment opportunities and higher pay. Certification is available from several professional organizations. One may also become certified in a specific medical specialty, such as obstetrics or podiatry. A medical assistant should be polite and pleasant and have good communication skills.

Advancement Opportunities - Medical Assistant:

Some medical assistants choose to further their education in order to move into other health care careers, for example nursing. Those who prefer administrative duties may advance into other positions, for example office manager.

Job Outlook - Medical Assistant:

The job outlook for medical assistants is excellent. This occupation is projected to grow faster, through 2018, than other occupations that require only on-the-job training or experience (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Earnings - Medical Assistant:

Medical assistants earned median hourly wages of $13.77 and median annual wages of $28,650 in 2009.

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a Medical Assistant currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Medical Assistant's Life:

On a typical day a medical assistant's tasks might include:

  • answering phones and scheduling appointments
  • recording information, such as medical histories, vital signs and lab test results in medical records
  • preparing treatment rooms for patient examinations
  • interviewing patients and taking vital signs
  • administering medications under a doctor's supervision
  • cleaning and sterilizing instruments
  • disposing of contaminated supplies
  • collecting laboratory specimans, including blood and tissue

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Medical Assistant, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos164.htm (visited April 21, 2010).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Medical Assistant, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/31-9092.00 (visited November 30, 2010).

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