Medical assistants are a vital piece of the health care puzzle, providing needed assistance to increasingly busy physicians while often serving as the patient's first encounter in a health care setting. According to the American Association of Medical Assistants, a certified medical assistant receives specialized training that makes him or her "uniquely qualified to 'speak the patient's language' and serve as the communication liaison between the busy physician and patients who are often afraid to ask questions."
Medical assistant career information
The duties medical assistants perform vary by practice and setting, but in general they perform basic patient care and administrative functions. These tasks often include taking patients' vital signs, record-keeping, preparing lab work, scheduling appointments and even, in some cases, giving injections or helping physicians to examine patients. In some practices, medical assistants may specialize in administrative work, adding billing and coding to their duties, while others handle predominantly clinical duties, such as sterilizing equipment, doing basic lab tests, removing stitches, drawing blood or providing instructions to patients.
Medical assisting career outlook
The future looks bright for medical assisting careers, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) forecasting much faster than average growth of 29 percent from 2012 to 2022. One of the largest segments of the U.S. population, baby boomers, are turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 per day, according to AARP, and this burgeoning senior population will place increasing demand on the health care system. That, combined with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act expanding insurance coverage, along with rapidly advancing technology and treatment methods, may cause some physicians to hire more medical assistants.
The BLS indicates that, while certification in this field often is not required, certification tends to improve job prospects.
Medical assistant salary information
In May 2013, the national median hourly salary for medical assistants was $14.24, and the national median annual salary was $29,610, according to the BLS. Most medical assistants work full time. Some employers may prefer candidates with certification, so this may also be a factor in individual earnings.
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Job statistics for medical assisting
In 2012, there were 560,800 medical assistants practicing in the U.S., according to the BLS. By 2022, it's expected that this number will jump to 723,700 as they spend more time interacting with patients while physicians manage acute symptoms or chronic disease.
There are nearly 250 medical assistant programs accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Explore the list of schools provided here to help you decide if attending medical assisting program might be a good step for you.
"Boomers at 65: Celebrating a Milestone Birthday," AARP, http://www.aarp.org/personal-growth/transitions/boomers_65/
CAAHEP and ABHES Accredited Programs, American Association of Medical Assistants, http://www.aama-ntl.org/medical-assisting/caahep-abhes-programs#.U4ZZfCiHPJw
Medical Assistants, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/current/oes319092.htm
Medical Assistants, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm
"New Roles for the Certified Medical Assistant to Enhance Quality and Effectiveness of Care," Donald A. Balasa, Medical Practice Management, March/April 2008. http://www.aama-ntl.org/news/articles-about-profession#.U4ZQryiHPJw