How to become a Medical Assistant
Medical assistants perform administrative and medical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, heath practitioners, chiropractors, and various other types of doctors. Administrative medical assistants update and maintain patient’s medical records, arrange for hospital care, fill out insurance forms, answer phones, greet patients, schedule appointments, and handle billing.
Clinical medical assistants perform tasks like recording vital signs, recording medical history, explaining treatment procedures, preparing patients for examinations, and assisting doctors during checkups. Clinical medical assistants may also draw blood, prepare lab tests, authorize drug refills, or change wound dressings. A medical assistant’s responsibilities, however, will vary by state and employer.
Medical Assistant Educational Requirements
You can become a medical assistant by enrolling in a medical assisting certificate or associate’s degree program. You will learn medical terminology, medical law, physiology, ethics and anatomy, along with keyboarding, recordkeeping, accounting, and insurance processing. You will also learn laboratory techniques, pharmaceutical principles, and how to administer medications and first aid. Medical assisting programs generally require a high school diploma or GED prior to enrollment.
Although it is not required, medical assistants can be certified by the Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or the Associate of Medical Technologists (AMT) in a specific area such as optometry or podiatry. Continuing education is very important to career advancement.
Job Opportunities for Medical Assistant
Employment of medical assistants is expected to grow 34 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There will be an increase in the need for medical assistants as the healthcare industry grows, especially in primary care. The median annual wages of medical assistants were $28,300 in 2008, and the middle 50 percent earned between $23,700 and $33,050. Salaries for medical assistants will vary depending on their location, skill level, and experience in the field.
Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition; Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.