Have you thought about becoming a medical assistant? If so, you’re probably curious about the positives and negatives of this career.
Every career has pros and cons, and medical assisting is no exception to this rule. We’ve laid out the top upsides and downsides of becoming a medical assistant.
In this career, you can work with people directly to help keep them healthy and have a big impact while having a stable job. You also have flexibility to find work almost anywhere you choose to live. The training programs are relatively short compared to other healthcare jobs. There are disadvantages as well, most notably, sometimes it can be stressful, and multitasking is a must.
However, medical assisting continues to be a consistent career that many people choose to work in. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of this popular healthcare career.
What is a Medical Assistant?
A medical assistant is a healthcare professional who works directly with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers to provide support and assistance. Typically, a medical assistant performs a combination of clinical and administrative duties. Medical assistants often work with patients, taking vital signs, drawing blood, collecting information for the physician, scheduling appointments, and maintaining medical records. Most often, medical assistants work in doctors’ offices, medical facilities, clinics, and other health care facilities.
Medical assistants are part of a group of healthcare workers known as allied health professionals. These health care professions are distinct from optometry, dentistry, nursing, medicine, clinical psychology, and pharmacy. They provide a range of diagnostic, technical, therapeutic, and support services in connection with health care.
Pros of Medical Assisting
Here are some of the reasons that people choose to become a medical assistant.
Optimistic Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 18% gain in medical assistant jobs between 2020 and 2030 . This is a total of 132,600 medical assisting jobs that must be filled over the decade. Hospitals, physician’s offices, clinics, and other medical facilities across the country all need medical assistants to help keep up with the need for trained health care professionals.
Relatively Short Training Period
Many medical assistant certification programs are shorter in length than for other healthcare positions (registered nurse, doctor, physician’s assistant).
MTI College has a Medical Assistant training program that is about 42 weeks in length. After graduating from an accredited training program and earning certification, a student will be eligible for employment as a medical assistant.
Gaining Valuable Expertise
If you are the type of person that enjoys learning new things, being a medical assistant can leave you fulfilled. Medical assistants gain medical and technological expertise during their daily work. You will learn medical terminology, office management, the basics of physiology, as well as the latest advances in healthcare. There is always more to learn, including the newest lab techniques and medical procedure protocol.
Ability to Work in Different Settings
One of the biggest strengths of choosing to be a medical assistant is the flexibility to work in different settings. Once you learn the skills, you can work in different facilities, if you so choose. Hospitals, physician’s offices, outpatient clinics, research laboratories, long term patient care homes are all viable places to work as a MA.
Variety of Job Tasks
Working as a medical assistant is never monotonous. During the week, you may input medical records, prep patients for the doctor, take vital signs, administer medications, draw blood for lab results, or several other duties.
Impactful Work and Job Satisfaction
For people who need to draw meaning from their work, healthcare is an ideal field. Working as a medical assistant, you have direct impact on people’s quality of life. This can give you a deep sense of satisfaction and purpose. Your work has a direct impact on your community.
Medical Career Advancement
Medical assistants can also advance their careers by gaining experience or education. Some institutions may have a reimbursement plan for work related education (check with your employer). With requisite experience, a medical assistant may advance into a leadership role. Or, by pursuing further medical education, a MA may qualify for positions like registered nurse (RN), physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner.
Specializations are Possible
Medical assistants can specialize in a particular field, just like physicians. Some common areas of specialization include pediatrics, psychiatric, podiatry, oncology, endocrinology, cardiology, and general medicine. Becoming a specialized medical assistant in a particular field may make you more attractive to potential employers. Note: Specialized medical assistant certifications for specific fields are usually required for this recognition or increased commiserate salary.
Clean Hygienic Work Environment
Medical facilities are required to provide a clean hygienic environment for patients and healthcare workers. You can rest assured that you will always work in a clean and sanitized environment.
Almost every town and city has a medical office or hospital. Healthcare is a field which will be here as long as there are communities. Qualified medical assistants should always be able to find employment somewhere. You can also move and carry your skills, qualifications, and experience with you wherever you go.
Benefits On Top of the Paycheck
Most healthcare employers provide benefits on top of the base paycheck. Medical insurance, dental and vision, paid vacation time (with tenure) and other extra benefits may be part of your employment package. Check individual employers to see what they are offering as a compensation package.
Cons of Medical Assisting
Every job has some negative aspects. These are some that are related to medical assisting.
Long Work Hours
If you work in a physician’s office, it is possible that you will work a regular 40 hour schedule as a medical assistant. However, in an urgent care facility, it is also possible you will work 10 to 12 hours days. You may also end up working some weekend days, evenings, or holidays.
Most medical assistants work on a regular schedule, though it is not uncommon to have long or irregular hours if the facility is understaffed, or during an emergency.
Multiple Job Responsibilities
Medical assistants have a wide range of clerical and administrative duties. You will usually be working on multiple tasks throughout the day. On a typical day, you may be scheduling patient appointments, taking vital signs, prepping the examination room for the doctor, drawing and preparing blood samples for the laboratory, and updating medical records. An adept medical assistant must organized and good at multitasking.
The Work Can Be Stressful
Working as a medical assistant can be mentally and physically draining. Healthcare is a field that sometimes has high demands and can be a fast-paced environment at peak hours. Medical assistants must multi-task efficiently, balancing the needs of supervising physicians, while registering and attending to patients, who may also be under stress. Many tasks may all have a high priority at once: taking vital signs, preparing the patient for the physician, and dealing with the backlog of patients. Keeping clarity and focus and being able to perform under stressful conditions will be a valuable asset.
Lack of Autonomy and Independence
One thing you should consider is whether you will be okay with having assignments given to you everyday without room for independent decision making. Medical assistants work for doctors or medical offices, and do not have much room for autonomy. Some states restrict what medical assistants may do legally, such as operating laser equipment, interpreting test results, or doing triage or giving medical advice over the phone. Your roles and responsibilities will generally be given by the supervising physician. You may have little control over the pace of your workday, which may cause some individuals to feel less sense of accomplishment.
Salary vs Physician’s Assistants
Medical assistants earn more than certified nursing assistants (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics median average, as 2022). However, medical assistants on average earn less than physician’s assistants or registered nurses. Demand is much higher than average in 2022 for both medical assistants and physician’s assistants according to BLS statistics. Note: Physician’s assistants are usually required to have a Master’s degree from an accredited institution. Becoming a medical assistant can be a step towards a better paying job in healthcare, if you are willing to pursue the requirements.
Potential Workplace Biohazards
As in many health care facilities, there are potential biohazards to be aware of. Taking bodily fluids from a patient, such as blood, must be done properly. Sharps such as needles must also be handled and disposed of properly to avoid potential transmission of blood borne pathogens.
There are also many patients who may have transmissible respiratory diseases. Health care workers should always use proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Particular care must be taken if you are immunocompromised.
Dealing with Aftermath of Patients Dying
Medical assistants may work with patients with serious illnesses or conditions that may not recover, and eventually die. Though this is not an everyday occurrence, it is a reality that all healthcare workers must prepare themselves for. When you have developed a working relationship with patients over time, this can be quite jarring. You should be prepared to separate your working life from your home life, and pay particular attention to your mental and emotional health.
Should You Become a Medical Assistant?
Every career has pros and cons, and medical assisting has many examples of both. Choosing a career path is something you should consider thoughtfully, considering your goals, lifestyle, and family. This article should help you weigh your options, and whether medical assisting is right for you.
Take the First Step Towards Becoming a Medical Assistant
Becoming a Medical Assistant is a great way to start a career in the medical field, with many ways to advance your career. MTI College in Sacramento offers two programs to help you become a NCMA certified Medical Assistant.
Our flagship Medical Assistant program is a 42 week program that trains students in the protocols and procedures used every day in clinics, hospitals, and assisted living environments.
Due to popular demand, we also offer a Medical Assistant with Phlebotomy Certification program that helps students become certified as a medical assistant and become a Certified Phlebotomy Technician.
If you want to take the first step towards this in-demand career, complete the Request Information form or call our Admissions team to learn more today!
 Note: The data provided above are from a source unaffiliated with MTI College, are for informational purposes only and represent the employment field as a whole. They are not solely specific to MTI graduates and, by providing the above information, MTI makes no representation, direct or implied, or opinion regarding employability.