Are you a graduating high school senior with no idea of what to study or where to go next? Are you a college student looking for a change of major or program that will lead to the right career for you? Perhaps you’re already working full-time, but are thinking about switching jobs and moving to a new field?
No matter which of these three positions you find yourself in, or whether you find yourself in a different position that forces you to contemplate the many available career choices available to you, it can be a confusing time. Out of all the hundreds of possibilities out there, how do you even begin to go about choosing?
One of the criteria that should be in the forefront of your mind as you consider your options is this: which fields are growing, and where will there be plenty of jobs in the future? While many job titles fit these criteria, the one that we’re going to talk about today is the field of medical administrative assisting.
What Is a Medical Administrative Assistant?
We encounter medical administrative assistants all the time in our daily lives, although we might not realize it. Sometimes, we call them by other names such as receptionists, secretaries, or front desk workers. In most cases, they are the first person that we meet when we enter any kind of medical facility or office.
While the doctors, nurses, and technicians are the ones who interact with the patients behind the office doors, administering treatments and completing examinations, the medical administrative assistants are the individuals who interact with the public in the waiting room. They do not have medical degrees, in most cases, and do not usually participate in the medical treatment or examinations of patients.
What Does a Medical Administrative Assistant Do?
If a medical administrative assistant doesn’t participate in the actual medicine that takes place in a doctor’s office, then what exactly do they do?
It’s simple. In most cases, they manage the front desk and the office side of a medical practice. They answer the phones. They schedule appointments. They write down insurance information and bill the patients after the appointment has been completed. They retrieve medical histories and then file them away again. They field common questions about scheduling and payments.
They fulfill many of the duties that an ordinary secretary and receptionist would. The reason they have the special title of medical administrative assistant, however, is because they work specifically in a medical setting. As such, they will need to be familiar with software specific to medical practices, as well as things like medical histories, insurance, and other commonalities across medical practices.
It can be difficult to prescribe an exact list of everything a medical administrative assistant might do, simply because every setting is slightly individual and will have unique expectations and assign different duties. Some medical administrative assistants might stay behind the front desk all day, answering phones and scheduling appointments. In other cases, they may be allowed to perform basic clinical tasks like drawing blood or taking blood pressure. These instances are rare, however, and are based on different state regulations as well as doctor’s preferences.
Where Do Medical Administrative Assistants Work?
The short answer to this question is that medical administrative assistants work at medical practices. The long answer is that these professionals work in a wide variety of settings that will likely all have different expectations and require different specializations and areas of expertise.
Just a few of the different settings that will employ medical administrative assistants include:
- Doctors’ Offices
- Dental Offices
- Emergency Care Centers
- Outpatient Care Centers
Based on this list alone, it isn’t difficult to see how administrative assistants at these locations would have different responsibilities. For example, a medical administrative assistant at a hospital would be up against different challenges than their counterpart at a small-town private physician’s practice.
Who Can Become a Medical Administrative Assistant?
Anyone can become a medical administrative assistant. However, if you do aspire to go into this field, you should be aware that there are certain goals and milestones you will need to hit before you can be considered eligible for such a position. While these milestones aren’t nearly as rigorous as the ones required to become a doctor, they are still important and cannot just be shrugged aside or dismissed.
While there may be some exceptions, almost all medical settings will require you to have some form of post-secondary education before they hire you as an administrative assistant. If you’re considering a career in this field, here are the steps you should consider following for your best chance at being competitive for positions.
1. Receive a High School Diploma
Like most jobs, especially those that prefer to see post-secondary education, most medical administrative assistant employers will want to see that you have received your high school diploma. If this is not possible, seek a GED or other high school diploma equivalent.
2. Look for Post-Secondary Options
There are several different options in this category that you can choose to pursue. You might find a medical administrative assistant program at a local community college, trade school, or vocational school. Programs such as these will vary in length, but some can be completed in as little as a year. Upon completion of such a program, you will typically receive either a Diploma or a certificate that verifies your completion.
You might also look for a similar program at a community college that leads to a full associate’s degree. These programs will typically take slightly longer, at an average of two years. Upon completing such an associate’s degree, however, you’ll have the benefit of a college degree. While it’s impossible to predict if potential employers will require this or not, it will certainly help you stand out amidst a field of other candidates.
Some of the coursework you will likely take might include classes such as:
- Office Operations
- Medical Insurance
- Basic Medical Procedures
In addition to such class work, some of these educational programs may allow the opportunity for internships in medical settings. Such experiences are incredibly valuable and will allow you to gain real-world training to help you get your feet wet before embarking on your career.
3. Become Professionally Certified
As with an associate’s degree, professional certification may or not be required for the specific position you’re considering. Whether or not it’s required, though, it will help you to look more qualified than other candidates who are not certified. It’s also wise to note that every state has different regulations, and you may want to look into your state’s specific regulations.
If you’re interested in seeking certification as a medical administrative assistant, two of the most common levels of certification to look into are the CMA and the RMA. While both are valid certifications that will help you to stand out among applicants, note that the average CMA earns roughly $3,000 more than the average RMA, annually.
Examine the different qualifications for each level of certification to decide which is better and more practical for you.
This stands for Certified Medical Assistant, and it is the most highly-regarded and sought-after level of certification for most medical administrative assistants. To become a CMA, you will need to graduate from an accredited post-secondary medical assistant program, as well as pass an exam. The exam consists of 400 questions completed over four 40-minute sections and covers such topics as anatomy, phlebotomy, medical terminology, and administrative procedures. Once achieved, this certification is good for five years, after which time you will need to seek re-certification or look into earning continuing education credits.
RMA stands for Registered Medical Assistant and is a slightly lower level of certification. To become an RMA, you will need to achieve five years of experience in the field, all within the past five to seven years, or you must have a post-secondary degree in medical assisting. The RMA exam, required to become certified, is comprised of 200-210 questions that you must answer over a three-hour period. Topics include finance, insurance, anatomy and physiology, medical ethics, and more.
4. Find Your First Entry-Level Job
Once you’ve completed your education and potentially sought certification, you’re ready to begin applying for work. Browse local job postings until you find entry-level positions, polish up your resume with all your latest credentials and experience, and send it in. If you’re having trouble finding open positions, remember to look at all the different medical practices near you, from hospitals and emergency rooms to small dentist offices.
What Is the Job Outlook for a Medical Assistant?
Now that you know a bit about what a medical admin assistant is, what they do, where they work, and how to become one, the next important question is about the medical assistant employment outlook. Simply put, is it worth it to become a medical administrative assistant? Is the field growing or shrinking? Can you reasonably expect there to be jobs available in this field in the coming years?
The medical administrative assistant career outlook is excellent, and this is a very worthwhile career to pursue. To prove this point, let’s take a look at some of the numbers.
Between the years of 2010 and 2020, the field of medical administrative assisting is expected to grow by 31 percent nationally. This data was collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and predicted a growth rate considered far faster than the average job is growing. In addition to this data, the BLS stated that the median national salary for medical assistants as of 2012 was $29,370, with the highest and lowest 10 percents earning $41,570 and $21,080 respectively. The differences in these salaries can partially be explained by varying levels of education and experience, as well as location.
More recent data from the BLS expects this field to grow by 23 percent between 2014 and 2024 and cites the median annual salary of a medical administrative assistant in 2015 as $30,590.
Why Is the Medical Administrative Assistant Job Outlook so High?
Because we can see that the medical office assistant job outlook is so high, we might logically wonder what the reason for this is. Why are experts predicting that these professionals will be in such high demand in the future?
The answer lies in the large size of the Baby Boomer generation. Before Millennials officially became the largest generation in America, this title belonged to the Baby Boomers. Large numbers of this generation are now well into their 60s and will soon be reaching their 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, with old age often comes a multitude of health problems and complications.
As these massive numbers of people begin to approach the age when their health may begin to fail, there will be a larger demand for medical professionals of all types. Doctors, nurses, surgeons, and countless types of specialists are expected to have to expand their practices. This means that these doctors will need to hire more bookkeepers, billers, and of course, medical administrative assistants.
Another reason the field is expected to expand so rapidly is our advances in technology. Because our technology, medical knowledge, and abilities are continuing to advance and grow, new procedures are available every day. New cures and solutions are being found, which means new practices and facilities are going to need to be established as more and more people seek out these new procedures. Again, this translates into a greater need for medical administrative assistants.
This means that if you’re considering entering the field of medical office work, the odds are in your favor. It is almost certain that there are plenty of medical admin jobs to go around, and the likelihood of you being able to find a job is very promising.
Find Your Medical Administrative Assistant Program Today
Are you convinced that the positive job outlook for medical administrative assistants in the coming years makes this a field worth getting into? If so, then your first step should be looking for a post-secondary educational program that will give you both the classroom education and real-world experience you’ll need to succeed in this dynamic and growing field.
If you’re looking for such a program, we’d like to introduce you to our Medical Administrative Assistant Diploma program here at Vista College. Our coursework is 100 percent online-based, meaning that you can complete it from anywhere and at any time, without being tied to a specific schedule. It can be completed in as little as 15 months, although we also welcome students who want to complete the program part-time and do the coursework at a slower rate.
By the time you’ve completed this program and earned your Diploma, you will be able to sit for CMA national certification exam, thus qualifying you for an untold number of medical administrative assistant positions across the country and giving you an advantage over applicants who do not have this certification.
If you’re interested in this fantastic opportunity, then get started by learning more about our program. If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to fill out our form and request more information about the programs you’re interested in.