The Scoop on Medical Assistants

Medical Assistants work closely with Doctors and other medical professionals to make sure their work environments are running as smoothly as possible.

Because this is an "assisting" job, there are limitations as to how much you would see patients, but this is a good way to get your foot in the medical community's door or to learn more while you're in school to advance in medicine. Job growth in this field is expected to be very fast, so go ahead and get on the train while you still can before everyone else figures out this is a hot profession.

What in the World Does a Medical Assistant Do?

A Medical Assistant does anything you can possibly imagine in a Doctor's office or hospital that you wouldn't imagine a Doctor doing themselves. Clerical work is a must if you're working as a Medical Assistant. Patients need appointments, insurance needs to be handled, billing must be done, records must be kept and filed, and the office needs to run smoothly. Besides the typical clerical duties, Medical Assistant can also learn to handle many clinical duties.

In regards to patient care, a Medical Assistant helps to make patients as comfortable as possible. If the Doctor does outpatient surgeries you might need to get patients ready for surgery, assist in some simple medical tasks, and help the patient get ready to return home. If the patient is in for a check up, you might see the patient to their room and take their recent medical history, or you might even collect samples and specimens for laboratory tests. The combination of clerical and clinical duties sets a Medical Assistant apart from others in the Doctor's Office.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

The training for Medical Assistantship can take many forms. The most common training programs are found in technical schools, vocation schools, junior colleges and community colleges. These programs usually take 9-12 months to complete and get you a certificate of Medical Assistantship.

Though it is not required, you could go to college and get an Associate's Degree, which would take 2 years. You have to be really careful to judge how much schooling you need based on far you want to go in medicine. The farther you want to go, the more school you need up front. Some practices will train their Medical Assistants on the job.

Though licensure is not required in every state, you need to check with your local Medical Board to see if they require a license for Medical Assistants. If they don't you may still want to get a certification from a national group. These sort of "national" certifications are good in any State and are many times required (or at least desired) by potential employers. The more diploma-type stuff you have, the better you look to people who want to hire you.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

You will be able to apply wherever Doctors and medical professionals work. Every Doctor's office, hospital, large practice, health clinic, nursing home, etc. needs Medical Assistants. Because the large volume of medical professionals brings in lots of patients, those same professionals also need lots of help to maximize their efforts.

It might also be smart to find out who's hiring medical professionals and contact them to see if those same professionals need assistants. Once again, you're going where the "helper needers" are.

Advancement in the profession usually means getting into Supervision or Management. You could rise to the title of "Director of Medical Assistants" or supervise lots of other assisting personnel. Also, you might stay in school and become a nurse or Doctor. This job is great early education for more advanced medical careers. Either way, you don't have to get Mr. Johnson a blanket before getting his "snip-snip" for the rest of your life.

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Medical Assistants Overview

Medical Assistant Salary:$28,300
Job Prospects:A+
Education after high school:1 years
# Employed in US:475,950
% Who work Part Time:23%
Physical Difficulty:+ + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+
Emotional Difficulty:+ +

The Pros of being a Medical Assistant

  • Training can take as little as 9 months and can be done in many places
  • Some places will train you on the job
  • Many states don't require a license so you don't have to jump through as many hoops
  • This job is great for people who are training for another medical profession

The Cons of being a Medical Assistant

  • You do a lot of the grunt work in an office or hospital
  • You have to combine clerical and clinical duties
  • You have to move into another field to advance your career if you don't get into management
  • You spend a lot of time on your feet