When you think of who works at a doctor’s office, you generally think of professionals who provide care, such as doctors, nurses, or medical assistants. You may not have considered the person who keeps the office running smoothly while care is provided, but it’s actually an important role.
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After all, someone needs to keep things organized and handle the operational details so that doctors and other clinical staff can focus on patient care. The person responsible for all this, and more, is a medical office manager.
Medical office managers take on many responsibilities behind the scenes at doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. It’s a great position for people with organizational and leadership skills who are looking to take on a middle management-type role in the growing healthcare field. You’ll generally need a bachelor’s degree for a medical office management role. Some hold just an associate degree, however, while others choose to earn a master’s.
How to Become a Medical Office Manager
Medical office managers take on a lot of responsibilities. This is a management role that requires expertise and leadership. That’s why you’ll generally need a degree to get a position in the field. The most common route for medical office managers is a bachelor’s degree, but that’s not the only option.
One unique thing to know is that, unlike most medical roles, your degree doesn’t need to be in healthcare to work as a medical office manager. You can often hold this job with a degree in business administration. However, degrees in healthcare administration are available and might help you advance your career.
A degree in business administration will allow you to work as a medical office manager.
Minimum Education Requirements
There are no set minimum education requirements for medical office managers. However, formal education is nearly always required by employers. Aspiring medical office managers have a few options for earning a degree.
A bachelor’s degree is generally the best option for this career. It will give you the education you need to take on the challenges of the job. While you can earn an associate, you might have trouble landing roles, especially if you don’t already have healthcare experience. A master’s is also an option, but many people with a master’s choose to advance further into healthcare leadership and seek roles in the healthcare administration field instead.
A bachelor’s degree is the most common degree held by medical office managers.
“A bachelor’s degree and coding experience are preferred,” DeNeal says. “A medical office manager needs a solid understanding of what it means to run a medical office from the front to the back.”
How Long Does It Take?
The amount of time it takes you to complete your education will depend on the degree path you take. It will also depend on the credits you transfer in, whether you attend school full or part time, and the school you choose. Typical times for each degree are:
Do I Need a License or Certificate?
There are no licensing or certification requirements for medical office managers. However, you can earn the optional Certified Medical Manager (CMM) credential offered by the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM).
While you don’t have to get the CMM credential to work as medical office manager, it’s a good idea. It shows employers you’re a dedicated professional and can make you stand out among other applicants.
A credential in office management isn’t required to be a medical office manager, but it can help you stand out from your competition.
You’ll need to have worked for at least two years as a medical office manager and to have completed at least 12 college-level credits in business or healthcare administration to be eligible for this credential. You can reduce the number of college credits you need with additional work experience. Each year of work experience takes the credit requirement down by one. So, if you had 14 or more years of experience as a medical office manager, you wouldn’t need any college credits to be eligible.
What Do Medical Office Managers Do?
Medical office managers are entrusted with a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities. Your exact tasks will depend on your employer, but many medical office managers are responsible for:
Medical office managers also handle problems as they arise. This might mean responding to a patient’s complaint, solving a dispute between two staff members, or calling the electric company if there’s a power outage. You’ll need to be flexible and prepared to think fast in this role.
Office managers oversee day-to-day operations of the facility, as well as other non-clinical staff.
Working as a medical office manager means shouldering a lot of responsibility for the overall patient experience, says Elisha B. DeNeal, president of the Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals (AHCAP) and current manager of executive and administrative support for Mary Washington Healthcare in Fredricksburg, Virginia.
“Medical office managers must own every aspect of the operation,” DeNeal says. “If a patient has a bad experience, it eventually comes back to (the medical office manager.) The day-to-day operations must be managed effectively and efficiently.”
Where Do They Work?
While most medical office managers work in private doctors’ offices and healthcare practices, there are many other places where they’re employed. Other opportunities include:
Will I Interact with Patients?
Working as a medical office manager is a behind-the-scenes role that involves interactions with staff more than patients. However, there are times when a medical office manager’s job might include patient contact.
For example, a medical office manager might intervene to help work with a patient who is upset with office staff. They might also call patients about complaints that arise. Plus, medical office managers must be ready to step into any role that needs to be filled that day. That might mean working the front desk, answering phones, or even taking a patient’s vital signs if needed.
“Medical office managers are often responsible for scheduling patients and rooming patients, which includes taking patients’ vitals and medical history prior to being seen,” explains DeNeal. “They can be found running the front desk at times and serving as a jack of all trades. Wherever there is a need, the medical office manager fills it, as long as it is within their scope.”
Medical office managers serve as “jacks of all trades,” and are often called upon to help in patient care as their training allows.
You’ll likely receive training to help you step into other roles as needed. You won’t be as hands-on with patients as a doctor, nurse, or medical assistant, but you will need to be prepared to do a little bit of everything to succeed in this role. That includes patient interaction.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t track data for medical office managers specifically, but it does class them under “first-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers,” who earned a median annual salary of $56,620 in 2020. Your exact salary as a medical office manager will depend on your employer, level of education, years of experience, and more. For example, the BLS also reports that first-line supervisors and administrative support workers who are employed in physicians’ offices earned $58,650 in 2020, while those employed in hospitals earned $66,230.
Healthcare careers are expected to see huge growth over the next decade. As the baby boomer generation ages, people will need healthcare more than ever before. In fact, the BLS projects an increase of 15% for all healthcare jobs through 2029.
Medical office managers will be part of this growth. They’ll have an important role to play as healthcare shifts and changes over the next few years.
“The need for more medical office managers is growing due to many practices transitioning from private ownership to becoming part of a health system,” DeNeal explains.
So if you’re looking to start a medical career with a lot of growth potential, now might be a great time to jump into medical office management.
Medical office managers can join professional organizations to help them stay on top of news and events in the field. These organizations are a great way to find mentors, make connections, learn about conferences, develop new skills, and more. Some great organizations include: