What Is a Medical Assistant? Duties & Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant

The demand for medical assistants is growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a projected 23% increase in job demand from 2018 to, far above the average for other careers. The certification for starting this career can be completed through the medical assistant program at MTI.

There were 686,600 medical assistant jobs in the United States in 2018, with 154,900 jobs projected to be added by 2028, for a total of 841,500. The career path for medical assisting might sound intriguing, but you probably want to know more about what a medical assistant is and what they do each day.

What is a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants work alongside physicians, performing a wide range of clinical and administrative tasks. MA’s may work in hospitals, outpatient facilities, ambulatory care facilities, medical offices, or clinics. Anywhere there are doctors or physicians, medical assistants are usually there to perform important tasks that help keep the medical office or hospital running optimally.

What Do Medical Assistants Do?

A medical assistant is critically important to the smooth operation of a doctor’s office, hospital or medical clinic, and his or her duties are split between administrative and clinical responsibilities.

Here are some of the administrative duties a medical assistant may be responsible for:

  • Welcoming patients and answering the phone
  • Setting appointments for patients
  • Overseeing patients’ medical records
  • Inputting and supervising patients’ insurance information
  • Organizing necessary information, such as hospital admissions and laboratory services
  • Handling patient correspondence
  • Moving patient information from paper records to electronic health records (EHR)

These are some of the clinical duties a medical assistant may be tasked with completing:

  • Preparing patients for medical examinations
  • Writing down medical histories
  • Measuring vital signs, like blood pressure
  • Drawing blood for testing
  • Removing sutures and changing dressings
  • Performing basic laboratory exams
  • Helping physicians with medical examinations
  • Administering injections or giving medications per physician’s instructions and as regulated by state law
  • Instructing patients about medications and special diets they may need

In smaller to medium sized medical offices, it is common for a medical assistant to perform both administrative and clinical duties. Though in larger hospitals, a medical assistant may specialize in either clinical or administrative work. Because medical assistants take patients’ personal information, they must also be able to keep that information private.

Ultimately, what a medical assistant does day to day depends on the location of the hospital or medical office, the state laws in that location, and the needs of the MA’s employer.

Where do medical assistants work? What are work conditions like?

Medical assistants most commonly work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, medical offices, and ambulatory services, but can also work for chiropractors, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, and dermatologists.

A 2012 report by the AMMA shows that 60% of all medical assistants worked in physician offices. 13% worked in hospitals, including private and public hospitals. 10% of all MAs worked in specialized medical offices (chiropractors, podiatrists, optometrists, etc.) The remaining 17% of medical assistants were employed in the following work settings:

  • Ambulatory services
  • Nursing homes
  • Outpatient medical facilities
  • Diagnostic and medical laboratories
  • Employment services (medical and drug testing)
  • Private and public educational services
  • State and local government agencies

Most medical offices have a Monday through Friday work week, though there are some offices and clinics with extended hours and weekend or holiday availability. Most medical assistants are paid hourly, according to the local rate in that city/state.

Medical assistant job outlook through 2028

Medical assistants (SOC Code 31-9092) are projected to have a 23% increase in jobs from 2018 from 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is excellent job growth. Why is there such high demand for this skillset?

According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), one reason medical assistant jobs are in high demand because more medical offices are opening to serve the aging US population.  Medical assistants help with many clinical and administrative tasks in preventative care. As the older demographic grows larger, more preventive care procedures are administered, so more physicians and medical assistants are required to meet the demand. Because MAs mostly work in primary care, when hospitals and outpatient clinics hire more medical assistants, it allows physicians to see more patients.

Another reason for the projected job growth is advances in medical technology, particularly in Electronic Health Records (EHR). The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that thought the job outlook is strong, prospective medical assistants with certification and familiarity with Electronic Health Records will have a distinct advantage in the job market.

As of May 2018, the median pay for medical assistants was highest in outpatient clinics, followed by hospitals, physician offices, and chiropractors.

What role does a medical assistant play on a medical team?

The medical assistant is usually the first point of contact for the patient once they enter the examination area. They take vitals, but also are sometimes the last person the patient talks to before leaving the examination area. The medical assistant sets the tone for the visit, and puts the patient at ease, letting them know their visit will be free from anxiety.

A courteous and friendly demeanor helps reassure the patient that they are being taken care of by the facility staff.

What are some skills a good medical assistant will possess?

Some of the crucial skills a medical assistant will need to succeed:

  • Communication skills
  • Positive attitude and friendly demeanor
  • Time management and organizational skills
  • Computer savvy
  • Adaptability and ability to “think on feet”
  • Good listener
  • Attention to detail
  • Compassion and empathy

Medical assistants who work in specialized medical centers might need specific skills related to the specialty of the facility.

How do you become a medical assistant?

If you’ve decided to pursue a career as a medical assistant, this is the process to securing a job a MA in a hospital, clinic, or physician’s office.

  1. Enroll in a medical assistant certification program. Most employers (hospitals, physicians, outpatient care) prefer to hire candidates that have completed a training and certification program. A robust training program will include classroom learning, along with an externship for real world practice. Medical assistant programs should include curriculum and training for medical terminology, clinical and administrative duties, medical laboratory procedures and techniques, and real-world training hours.
  2. Pass a certification exam. Becoming certified as a medical assistant is strongly recommended, as certification leads to the highest paying medical assisting jobs. If you are looking to work in a specialized office, such as podiatry or ophthalmology, there are specific certifications for those fields of medical assisting.
  3. Put together a resume. After completing your training and passing your certification exam, it is time to create a resume to show prospective employers. A brief resume that includes your qualifications, training, and certifications is best. Include a cover letter, and keep it and the resume succinct, about one page. It is a good idea to include terminology from your training and include keywords for medical assisting, as many larger employers use software to screen resumes for certain phrases. Another tip is to personalize the cover letter for each employer and show you have done some research on their facility.
  4. Begin your job search. Students who complete the medical assistant training program will also have access to MTI’s job placement assistance service. Our expert staff will provide alumni with the resources to find a job upon graduation by assisting with resume writing, job interviewing advice and techniques, and various other resources to find medical jobs around the Sacramento area. When applying to your first medical assistant job, look at job boards like Indeed or Glassdoor to find who is hiring in your local area.

What are the academic requirements to become a medical assistant?

Many employers prefer hiring who have graduated from a formal medical assisting program and have a widely recognized certification.

When you graduate from the medical assistant program at MTI College, you will have the background needed for an entry-level position with many possibilities. You will work with doctors, helping to perform a variety of administrative and clinical duties in a career that is increasingly in demand.

Who are the certifying bodies for medical assistants?

At the state level, certification standards vary state by state. Because of this, national certification is important. Certification shows potential employers that a prospective medical assistant has reached a certain level of competency.

There are a handful of entities that offer certification. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, accredits five certifications for medical assistants:

There ae also specialized certifications for specific branches of medicine (podiatry and ophthalmology).

Getting certified and finding a job after graduation

With the flexibility of the program at MTI College, you can be on your way to a career in medical assistance by going to school just three times a week in a fast-forwarded course. If you are currently working – or want to work part-time while earning your medical assistant certification – this is ideal for you.

Take a look at this article on a day in the life of a medical assistant and decide whether it’s a career path you would like to follow.

Why choose the medical assistant program at MTI College?

MTI College prepares students for a career in medical assistance with comprehensive training in administrative, clinical and laboratory procedures. Additionally, a required 160-hour off-campus externship provides hands-on experience in a professional healthcare facility setting. Students who study in the MTI medical assistant program learn:

  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical protocol and procedures in clinics and laboratories
  • Front-office practices, including coding and billing procedures
  • Patient relations
  • Medical law and ethics

As a graduate of the medical assistant program at MTI, you will be prepared to go out into the work force in less than a year.

There are additional benefits of studying medical assistance at MTI, including:

  • The flexibility of a new program that allows you to take classes just three times a week
  • Preparation for the California Certified Medical Assistant (CCMA)
  • Preparation for the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) exam that can be taken on campus
  • Access to MTI’s job placement assistance after graduation

Graduates of the medical assisting program at MTI College will have proficiency in the skills needed to perform diverse duties in the healthcare field and can look forward to an in-demand career. Contact MTI College today to begin your studies.

Want to learn more about MTI’s programs?

Our admissions team will help you find the perfect program to meet your goals. Financial aid is available to those who qualify.

Want to learn more about MTI’s programs?

Our admissions team will help you find the perfect program to meet your goals. Financial aid is available to those who qualify.

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