When choosing a career path, there’s no doubt that you will have a lot of questions. It’s normal to want to know all the little details of what may be ahead. After sorting through dozens of websites with generic information, you may still have more questions than answers. If you are considering a job as a medical assistant, understanding the big picture is the best way to ensure that there won’t be any surprises down the road.
Medical assistants are required to balance a variety of duties. As the go-to resource for many physician’s offices and clinics, assistants are trained to conduct clerical duties—like answering phones, filing paperwork, billing, and records maintenance.
On the other end of the spectrum, you will be working directly with patients. Medical assistants can expect to do everything from collecting histories and taking vital signs, to helping the physician with procedures, to collecting specimens, and giving injections. There’s never a dull day for a medical assistant which makes it a great job for those who get bored easily and always want something different. Like me.
You can expect to spend a year or two in school. Make sure to find a reputable, accredited program that will offer you the best quality for the money. If you don’t graduate from an accredited program, you will not be eligible to take the certification exam to become a CMA and you could lose out on job opportunities and higher pay as a result.
When you begin searching, pick a school that has a program that meets your needs. Consider cost, location, and faculty experience of the school and narrow your search to just a couple of schools, then research those thoroughly. I can’t stress enough the importance of helpful admissions, financial and program staff. If they are rude or unhelpful, that is only the beginning of your troubles and I would steer clear of that program.
Salary ranges are perhaps the biggest downfall of the job. Depending on where you live, salary ranges can be anywhere from $20,000 a year to $39,000. Of course, you will make more if you have your certification as a CMA, or experience in a specialized field. Despite how hard you will work, hourly pay averages around $9. On the up side though, many medical assistants are afforded the luxury of regular, Monday through Friday hours without weekends or holidays. So you may be willing to make a bit less pay to always know that you have free weekends and time for some fun.
Overall, medical assisting is a steady, solid job. Choosing a career that gives you the flexibility to work in many different roles makes you marketable to future employers. Virtually every job in the health care field is expected to grow dramatically over the next several years and medical assisting is included. Good luck with your decision—and I wish you the best as a medical assistant.
Rachel Ballard, RNC, BSN is a registered nurse with almost a decade of clinical experience in both acute care and public health settings.