Let’s face it—given the current job market, it can be a challenge to find employment. With high unemployment, new students entering the work force need to make sure they are taking the right path. Everyone I know who is familiar with the field believes that a healthcare career should lead to steady employment.
According to the Department of Labor Statistics, a career as a medical assistant is a stable one. Expected to grow by 35% between 2008 and 2018, medical assisting will be in high demand along with the rest of the health care related jobs.
The best jobs and chances for advancement within the field will be reserved for certified medical assistants (CMAs). A CMA is an assistant who has graduated from an accredited program and passed a certification exam. The exam may be taken as soon as you graduate and will really help in the long run. Employers prefer to hire medical assistants who have proven their skills and qualifications by earning CMA certification.
One of the biggest advantages for employers hiring medical assistants is their flexibility and training in multiple areas. Why hire two people – one to answer the phones and one to admit patients – when it’s more cost effect to hire one person who can do both tasks. For this reason, medical assistants bring more skills and versatility to the table compared to other healthcare workers.
As a medical assistant, you will compete with other highly qualified health care providers for jobs. As an RN, I have applied for jobs in physicians’ offices, only to be told that I was not qualified to do the job—because I didn’t have the cross training. Doctors want clerical staff in addition to medical staff, so medical assistants often bring more to the table than I can. I am over-qualified in some areas and under-qualified in others.
Salary ranges for assisting jobs will vary depending on where you live. Usually, average salary range between $23,000 and $39,000 per year. That’s a big range, I know. Your salary will depend on your certification status, specialized training, experience, and cost of living.
Right now there are just over 450,000 CMAs in the U.S. The government projects that there will be almost 700,000 by 2018. Becoming a CMA is a great idea if you are considering a job in the medical field and just want to get your feet wet. Maybe you aren’t sure if you want to be up to your elbows in bodily fluids everyday or perhaps your CMA is a stepping stone to a degree in nursing or health information management. Because medical assistants have the opportunity to do a lot of different jobs, it may be a good way to decide if healthcare is the right field for you.
Rachel Ballard, RNC, BSN is a registered nurse with almost a decade of clinical experience in both acute care and public health settings.