Medical Assistant Careers: Job Duties, Licensing & Career Growth

Learn more about what you’ll do as a medical assistant.

The Basics

What you’ll do: From measuring vital signs and performing lab tests to greeting patients and scheduling appointments, medical assistants are crucial members of a health care team. In a typical day on the job you’ll fill a variety of clinical and administrative roles. As electronic health records (EHRs) become standard in offices, assistants will need to be adept and precise at record keeping.

Where you’ll work: Physicians’ offices, hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, emergency rooms.

Degree you’ll need to practice: High school diploma; Certificate from an accredited program in some states.

Median annual salary: $35,720*

Job Environment

A typical day in a medical assistant career is never lacking in excitement. As a medical assistant, your primary responsibility is to ensure that everything is working smoothly. With a highly versatile skill set, you’re an important extra set of hands for nurses and health administrators.

In this role, you’ll communicate with doctors, nurses, patients, medical billing staff, insurance representatives and pharmacists. Other duties may include:

  • Stocking supplies
  • Answering phones
  • Setting up an EKG machine
  • Drawing blood
  • Explaining treatment procedures to patients

In a fast-paced medical assistant career, you’ll need to solve problems and be everywhere at once, while remaining calm and professional.

License and Certification

Although medical assistants are not licensed, the American Association of Medical Assistants and American Medical Technologists awards certification or registration. Employers prefer medical assistants to become certified, and some states require medical assistants to take a course or pass a test before they can perform tasks such as taking X-rays or administering injections.

Career Advancement

As more physicians’ practices convert to using electronic health records (EHRs), medical assistants must be adaptable to this change. Your responsibilities in the office will grow as you learn the software and analyze the data, improving overall health care information.

There are many paths you take to further your career, depending on what you’re most interested in. For example, if you love working with information and record keeping, you can branch out as a health information technician. On the other end of the spectrum, you can move on with education and training to become a nurse or physicians’ assistant.

According to the BLS, the highest concentration of medical assistant employment is in the following environments:

  • Physicians’ offices
  • Medical and surgical hospitals
  • Outpatient care centers

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2019 Edition.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

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