Medical Assistant Salary Guide

This page provides a general guide to the medical assistant salary one can expect to receive working in the United States.

Read our special article on this topic below to become educated on what a medical assistant earns annually.

Medical Assistant Salary

A medical assistant is an indispensible team member in a physician’s office. This professional is tasked with a number of significant functions that are either clinical or administrative in nature. Those who are best suited to administrative duties are tasked with office management, documentation, file keeping, and accounting. Those individuals who are very good in taking vital signs and prefer working alongside physicians and patients are given medical functions. However, in small offices and practices, medical assistants are generally required to perform both clinical and administrative assignments.

There is a huge demand for medical assistants. In 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 483,600 Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs) employed all over the country. Information shows that in a span of two years, the occupation enjoyed a steady increase and by May 2010, the figure rose to 523,260 professional medical assistants.

The medical assistant salary is also competitive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that from 2010, the national average income for a medical assistant is pegged at $29,760. The salary rate medical assistants receive will increase in relation to the type of employer, geographical location, years of experience and level of expertise of the worker among other things.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

A clinical medical assistant, as the term implies, does various things that are medical in nature. Aside from taking vital signs and assisting doctors during procedures, clinical medical assistants also jot down health histories of patients, help them prepare for examinations, explain the treatment process to their patients, and collect samples for laboratory purposes. When instructed by a supervising physician, a clinical medical assistant can also instruct patients about medications and special diets, how to prepare and administer medications, among other things.

Apart from office management and documentation, administrative medical assistants also prepare insurance forms for their patients, schedule appointments, arrange hospital admissions, and handle correspondence. This is a role that is typified by a lot of multi-tasking. The medical assistant may feel that they work in the capacity of “all things to all people” in the practice in which they work- a daunting role belied by the relatively modest medical assistant salary.

Assistants can expand their range of responsibilities and increase their medical assistant pay rate by taking specialization courses. Most states of the US require medical assistants to become certified and pass varying requirements before they can perform complex and advanced medical procedures. By satisfying several requirements, a medical assistant can shift from general medical practice to a more specific area, such as ophthalmology, optometry, and podiatry.

Taking specialization certifications will have a positive effect on the medical assistant salary one is receiving. An ophthalmic medical assistant will almost certainly receive a more substantial medical assistant pay rate compared to a professional who only plies his craft at the general medicine level.

Working Environment

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of medical assistants working in the United States are found in the offices of physicians, general and surgical hospitals, outpatient health facilities, and offices of other health practitioners. The usual work environment for a medical assistant is indoors (offices, emergency and operating rooms, patient’s quarters). However there are several medical assistants who are tasked to work outside healthcare facilities and offices, such as those with ambulatory functions.

Working hazards may include exposure to infectious materials such, body fluids, human wastes and other disease-bearing specimen. This is very true especially for those who are assigned to collect samples for clinical and laboratory examinations. Other hazards include electrical shock caused by faulty equipment and improper handling of electrical instruments, and exposure to odorous chemicals in laboratories.

Safety standards are in place, of course. Protective gear such as gloves, face shields, goggles, and fluid resistant lab coats, coupled with precaution barriers, are provided to ensure the safety of the medical assistant as well as other personnel.

The profession entails frequent walking, standing, and light physical effort as well as some carrying, lifting, kneeling, bending and reaching. A medical assistant may also experience working irregular hours, especially those that are employed in a hospital setting. A medical assistant may also be called to duty when away in case of emergencies. Medical assistants designated at the office may also experience pressure due to multiple phone calls and queries from patients, insurance providers, and orders from their direct superiors.

Industries

As of 2010, physicians with offices employ the most number of medical assistants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 322,430 medical assistants are working in offices throughout the country and are receiving an average medical assistant salary of $30,110 a year, which is slightly above the national standard.

In the same report by the Bureau, general and medical hospitals are the second biggest industry for medical assistants, providing work for 53,660 professionals. Surgical and medical hospitals pay an average medical assistant wage rate at $30,770 a year, which is almost identical to those employed in offices of physicians.

The highest paying employers for medical assistants are psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, where the average medical assistant salary is $39,220 per annum. However, selection is very competitive and opportunities are limited.

Other industries that offer great opportunities for medical assistants include outpatient health centers ($30,490), offices of dentists ($36,880), and ambulatory services ($28,730).

Education

While there are no formal education requirements to become a medical assistant, almost all practitioners possess a two-year associate degree. A significant number of medical assistants train while on the job and only have their high school diplomas to begin with.

Education may begin in high school, as there are community learning centers that provide medical assistant programs as vocational courses. There are also postsecondary courses that usually last for one year and lead to either a certificate or a diploma. The usual subjects covered in medical assistant programs are anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology. Some skills learning like keyboarding, transcription, recordkeeping, accounting, and insurance processing are optional but highly recommended for those who want to optimize their salary and employment opportunities.

Formal training in medical assisting, though not required, is also encouraged. Most employers prefer clinical medical assistants to be well versed with clinical procedures. Also, medical assistants that show expertise and flair in their occupation are usually given bigger medical assistant salaries than their counterparts with little to zero know-how.

Certification & Advancement

Certification is not required in most states. However, a certification is a good indicator for a medical practitioner’s level of expertise. A certified medical assistant also has the greater chance of getting hired and may earn a higher rate of pay compared to an entry-level professional.

There are a number of organizations that grant certifications to medical assistants, such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and Association of Medical Technologists (AMT). The process and requirements may vary, but most employers recognize the said associations and getting certified by them will definitely bolster a medical assistant’s career.

A highly experienced and well-trained medical assistant may find good job opportunities in other industries, like teaching medical assistant courses in colleges and vocational schools or shifting to a career in pharmaceutical sales. Generally, such a move would provide significantly more than the basic salary of a medical assistant.

Some medical assistants opt for higher learning to become nurses, physical therapists, medical technologists, or other healthcare workers. For those who are good with administrative duties, they can also move into higher positions such as office managers and become qualified for various administrative functions, such as organizing an event or managing a team of fellow medical assistants.

Advanced certification and specialization courses will enable a medical assistant to transit from general medical practice to a specialized field, like podiatry, optometry, or ophthalmology. A medical assistant with a specialty will definitely enjoy more employment opportunities and also a medical assistant salary well into the high end of the pay scale.

For complete information on the training necessary to become a medical assistant, check out emedicalassistants.com and get started today.

Employment Projections

Since 2008, the medical assistant profession has experienced tremendous growth. As healthcare becomes a bigger industry, the call for more professionals becomes louder. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that there will 647,500 medical assistants working by 2018. As of 2010, there are now 523,260 professionals employed in various places across the United States.

The spur of demand is attributed to the increasing number of people entering the elderly demographic. As more people enter old age, their need for medical assistance increases. Doctors will need more medical assistants in the future to aid them in clinical assignments and administrative functions.

The rising popularity of outpatient health centers and nursing homes have also helped in driving the job growth. The growing significance of such facilities has boosted the need for more healthcare workers across the board, medical assistants included.

Career Summary

The role of a medical assistant is essential to the structure of any healthcare organization, whether it is a general hospital or a small physician’s office. The tasks can be overwhelming but the thought of helping other people for a living can be very fulfilling. A medical assistant is required to deal with a lot of people of varying personalities, needs, and moods. Therefore, it is imperative that such professional should possess a high level of patience, understanding, and passion for their work.

It is no doubt a hard job, but one that is financially secure and stable. With good projections for the next few years and the growing significance of the healthcare industry, there is no doubt more people will consider the medical assistant career as a strong career choice into the future.