What Is the Average Medical Assistant Salary? & 7 Other FAQs About This Booming Healthcare Career
Perhaps you once dreamt of becoming a doctor or a nurse, but life got in the way. The four (or more) years of school seemed impossible with your schedule, finances or work-family balance.
Don’t lose heart—you can still work in the medical field as you once dreamed without breaking the bank. If you are considering a career change to the medical field and want a relatively quick way in, becoming a medical assistant may be the route for you.
But even knowing that there’s a shorter investment in time and schooling to become a medical assistant, you likely have other important questions to consider before you dive in. We compiled this handy guide of frequently asked questions regarding a medical assisting career to help you weigh your healthcare career options.
What is the average salary for medical assistants?
The average salary for a medical assistant in the United States ranges from $26,210 (West Virginia) to $41,340 (Alaska), but salaries vary by state. The average hourly wage is $15.79, making the annual wage $32,850, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1
This position in the medical field pays just below the national average for all occupations. While that may not be the most exciting thing to read, it’s not the only factor to consider. A medical assisting salary provides a solid and steady income while being one of the quickest routes to working in direct patient care. Location matters, as well—take a peek at our salary by state tool to see how a medical assistant salary stacks up in the state you’re living in.
What is the job outlook for medical assistants?
Another important factor to consider is whether there is significant demand for medical assistants. The good news is that job prospects for medical assistants appear to be strong. According to the BLS, employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 23 percent from 2014 to 2024.
Where do medical assistants work?
It may come as a surprise, but medical assistants work in more environments than just hospitals. In fact, only 15 percent of medical assistants worked in hospital settings in 2014, according to the BLS. The reality is that most medical assistants—59 percent of them, to be exact—worked in physicians’ offices.
Physician offices have daytime hours, closing anywhere from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., which can be a perk for those looking to avoid the overnight shifts and holiday hours that tend to come with healthcare jobs.
What are the education requirements to work as a medical assistant?
In most states, there aren’t any formal educational requirements for working as a medical assistant. That said, employers are much more likely to prefer candidates with some college education. The emphasis should be on the word “some” here—it won’t take a Bachelor’s degree to find a job—a Medical Assisting Diploma can be earned in as few as 12 months.2
Medical assistants may also want to pursue additional credentials to find work—the Certified Medical Assistant credential from the American Association of Medical Assistants and the Registered Medical Assistant credential from the American Registry of Medical Assistants are two of the most common options.
What do medical assistants do on a day-to-day basis?
Medical assistants have a fast-paced variety of tasks they complete day-to-day. These tasks will vary somewhat depending on the exact clinic and role. Medical assistants may be tasked with administrative work like collecting patient history and contact information as well as scheduling appointments and updating information into medical records.
Medical assistants may also work directly with patients as they take vital signs, collect blood samples for tests and help physicians with patient examinations. Depending on state law, they may also give patients medication or injections as directed by a physician.
What are some benefits of becoming a medical assistant?
Every state and nearly every city needs medical assistants. With a high rate of job openings and a small requirement as far as post-graduate education, it is a fast way to break into the medical field. It is a great career to make a difference, as you have direct impact on quality care for the patient.
A medical assisting position can also serve as an excellent way for you to test the waters of working in a direct patient care role before diving into the schooling needed for other patient care careers. Caring for others can be a challenging way to earn a living, so it might help to find out if it suits you by taking a relatively low-risk route into the field first.
Which skills and qualities are needed?
If you care about people and their health and have a good eye for detail, you can make it as a medical assistant. Successful medical assistants are analytical and are good at making patients feel at ease. They pay attention to details in recording information and working technical instruments such as blood pressure and heart-rate instruments. Communication is a key ability—medical assistants need to be able to effectively speak to patients, physicians and other healthcare facility staff, as well as the ability to take clear notes.
Considering becoming a medical assistant?
Now that you know the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about medical assistant careers, do you think you have what it takes? If you think this is the right path for you, check out our article, "How to Become a Medical Assistant: 5 Steps You Can't Ignore," to learn more about what you need to do to take your first step into the medical field.
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1Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Time to complete is dependent on accepted transfer credits and courses completed each quarter.