So What Exactly Is A Medical Assistant?

A.   The first you make contact with on a routine visit to the doctor.

Medical assistants usually complete many different kinds of tasks such as measuring a patient’s blood pressure or taking a patient’s temperature.

Many medical assistants maintain office files as fluidly and meticulously as they can draw blood. These health care professionals mix administrative and clinical duties in hospitals and private practices each day, where they man front desks and sterilize equipment. Their profession is expected to expand 29 percent by 2022.

A routine visit to the doctor is really a visit with an entire team – including a growing number of medical assistants. Medical assistants are likely the first and last faces you’ll see during any medical appointment, either in your doctor’s office or at a larger medical organization. The job is a mix of traditional office work, including manning the front desk, answering phones and filing insurance forms, as well as hands-on tasks such as drawing blood and preparing it for lab tests, administering injections and making sure medical histories are accurately recorded. More specialized roles include assisting ophthalmologists or optometrists with basic vision tests or helping patients learn to insert, remove and care for contact lenses.

The aging baby boomer population will help drive demand for more medical assistants, who will be needed to support doctors and nurses as they diagnose and treat patients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects medical assistant employment growth of 29 percent between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. The field is expected to gain 162,900 new jobs during that period. This sizeable employment growth puts medical assistants among the top health care jobs in our list of The Best Jobs of 2014.

The BLS reports that the median wage for a medical assistant was $29,370 in 2012, up slightly from the prior year. The best-paid 10 percent of medical assistants made $41,570, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $21,080. Physicians’ offices or hospitals pay the highest wages. By location, the highest-paid positions are in the metropolitan areas of Vallejo, Calif., Fairbanks, Alaska and San Francisco.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $35,380
Median $29,370
25th Percentile $24,940
See Full Salary Data
See Medical Assistant Jobs Near You
No formal training is required to become a medical assistant, and workers can enter the field and learn on the job with just a high school diploma. There are a variety of one-year certification programs or two-year associate degrees offered in the field, which teach students laboratory techniques, clinical procedures, medical terminology, record keeping and some specializations such as podiatry or optometry.