Becoming a Medical Assistant | Harris School of Business
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5 Things to Know about Becoming a Medical Assistant

Deciding on medical assistant training is an important decision.

Have you heard about medical assistant training through a friend, in your community, or through an advertisement on TV? Are you thinking about going back to school? Before making any career decision, it’s important to try to learn as much as you can about your potential career field. This article discusses what it’s like to be a medical assistant, and may help you decide whether this career path is the right one for you.

1. What do medical assistants do?

If you are thinking about enrolling in medical assistant training, take a few moments to think about what you would be doing on the job. What does a medical assistant do? What are some of the responsibilities they might handle on a typical day on the job? Medical assistants may work in medical offices, hospitals, nursing homes, surgical centers or other medical facilities. Here are some of the tasks they may do on a typical day:

  • Prepare a room for examination
  • Call patients and lead them to exam room
  • Take a patient’s blood pressure and temperature
  • Measure a patient’s weight
  • Record a patient’s medical history
  • Help to reassure a patient
  • Provide assistance to physicians and nurses as needed
  • Sterilize medical equipment
  • Collect specimens and prepare them for the lab
  • Provide patient education about health and wellness
  • Draw blood samples
  • Administer EKGs
  • Change dressings or bandages
  • Administer medication to a patient
  • Assist with office administration if needed

What do you think of these tasks? Are these the types of responsibilities you can imagine doing? If so, choosing to become a medical assistant could be a good path for you.

2. What is the workplace like?

When you think of a new career, it’s helpful to try to picture the type of workplace where you might end up working. Most medical assistants work in physicians’ offices, hospitals, or other healthcare facilities. These facilities are usually clean, bright, and professional. Most medical offices are busy and bustling with many appointments scheduled back-to-back throughout the day. As a medical assistant, you can expect to spend most of the day on your feet. You may sometimes be required to wear a surgical mask and safety gloves to help prevent the spread of infection. Most medical assistants wear scrubs to work. Depending on your job responsibilities, you may also be asked to work in the front office, where you would be seated at a computer and helping with telephones.

3. How do you become a medical assistant?

In most states, there are no formal training requirements for becoming a medical assistant. But employers may prefer to hire job applicants who have received medical assistant training. Training is available through community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and private career training schools. Most programs take about one year to complete, and include classroom learning where students learn topics such as anatomy and physiology, as well as laboratory lessons where students learn skills such as taking vital signs, administering EKGs, and drawing blood samples. Some programs offer internships or externships, where students have the opportunity to work in an actual healthcare facility and practice their newly-learned skills before graduation.

4. How much money do medical assistants make?

The wages and salaries of medical assistants can differ across the country, depending on different variables, such as your level of experience, the region of the country where you work, and the pay scale offered by the employer. To get a better understanding of how much medical assistants make, visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Department of Labor. This handbook shows the median annual wage for medical assistants in the U.S.

You can also search job advertisements in your local area. In some cases, the employer will include the hourly wage in the job ad. By reviewing the job ads, you can get an idea of the going rate in your geographical area. If this type of wage sounds good to you, then you might want to continue pursuing this career field.

5. What is the employment projection?

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the job outlook for medical assistants is strong. The handbooks explains, “Employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 29 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

The handbook further describes, “The growth of the aging baby-boom population will continue to spur demand for preventive medical services, which are often provided by physicians. As their practices expand, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians to see more patients.”

We hope this information has answered some of your questions and has helped you gain a better understanding of the field of medical assisting. Making a decision about your education and your career is an important process, and we hope this article has helped determine if medical assisting is a good fit for you. Remember, the most important thing is to make a decision that makes the best sense for you!