A Closer Look at the Medical Assistant Job Description
If you’re a people person who also appreciates behind-the-scenes planning and orderliness, it’s no wonder you’re looking into a career as a medical assistant (MA). You’re not interested in investing several years of schooling, but you’ve always thought working in the medical field would be a rewarding use of your skills.
The dynamic role of a medical assistant, combining both front- and back-office duties in a healthcare facility, is appealing to you. But you’re ready to learn more about the ins and outs of this position.
You can learn a lot by browsing a medical assistant duties list in a job description, but that’s only scratching the surface of what this position entails. We’re digging deeper to give you a better understanding of a typical medical assistant job description.
What does a medical assistant do?
Medical assistants have a hand in a little bit of everything in a medical office. From clinical work to administrative duties, they work on the frontlines and behind the scenes to keep office operations running smoothly. You can generally find medical assistants welcoming patients, recording their history, measuring vital signs, preparing samples for lab tests or scheduling patient appointments.
The list of medical assistant duties will vary a bit depending on the healthcare facility in which they work. It’s true that a majority of MAs work in a clinic or physician’s office, but their assistance is also needed in hospitals, outpatient care centers and even specialty offices, like a chiropractor or optometrist.
What does a typical day look like for a medical assistant?
A typical MA job description offers a variety of daily job duties depending on the type of work you’re drawn to. Administrative medical assistants typically spend most of their time answering phones, scheduling appointments and helping patients fill out insurance forms. Clinical medical assistants are more hands-on with medical procedures and may do basic laboratory tests, sterilize medical instruments, instruct patients on specialized diets, remove stitches and prepare patients for X-rays.
Depending on where you work, a typical day can look different for different types of medical assistants. For example, if you work with an optometrist as an MA, you may spend time helping patients understand eye care, or you may show a patient how to insert, remove and care for contact lenses.
If you’re a medical assistant working with a podiatrist, you may be making castings of feet, helping with patient preparation for X-rays or assist a podiatrist during surgery. Whether you’re at the front desk or in the physician’s office working with a patient, a day in the life of a medical assistant varies from position to position.
Important medical assistant requirements
In order to qualify for a medical assistant position, there are certain training and skill requirements you’ll need to be aware of.
Medical assistant education and training
Most states do not have formal education standards in place related to medical assistant requirements. However, many employers prefer hiring MAs who have completed a postsecondary program, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1
A Medical Assisting Diploma can be earned in as few at 12 months at Rasmussen University, providing students with a foundation of knowledge and training.2 Graduates of this program are trained in basic medical procedures, important clinical tasks and administrative responsibilities, and they gain valuable teamwork experience.
In addition to a postsecondary program, earning a medical assisting credential, like the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)® credential from the American Association of Medical Assistants or the Registered Medical Assistant credential from American Medical Technologists, can also make you more marketable within the healthcare workforce. Some programs, such as the one at Rasmussen University, prepare students to take medical assisting certification exams and even cover the application fee for the first exam attempt.3,4
Medical assistant skills and characteristics
It takes a unique blend of hard and soft skills to successfully carry out the responsibilities included in the medical assistant job description. If you’re friendly, welcoming and organized, you already have some of the important traits that the best MAs share.
But what other skills will you need to add to your arsenal? To find out, we used real-time job analysis software to examine more than 264,000 medical assistant job postings from the past 12 months.5 The data helped us identify the in-demand skills employers are seeking in their MAs.
Top technical skills for medical assistants:
- Patient care
- Vital signs measurement
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Patient preparation
- Electronic medical records
- Customer service
- Administrative functions
Top transferable skills for medical assistants:
- Computer literacy
- Telephone etiquette
- Attention to detail
- Physical abilities
Medical assistant career information
Now that you have a better understanding of what an MA job description entails, you’re probably curious about some career-related information. Here is some important information you’ll want to know.
Medical assistant job outlook
The relatively quick path to entry is one of the reasons becoming an MA is appealing to you. But will you be able to find a job after completing your training?
While there’s a lot of factors influencing the answer to that, you’ll be happy to hear that employment of medical assistants is projected to increase at a rate much faster than average, according to the BLS.1 In fact, MA employment is projected to rise 19 percent through 2029.
Medical assistant salary data
It’s only normal to be curious about what to expect from a medical assistant salary. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for MAs in 2020 was $35,850.1 It’s important to note that these numbers reflect data from workers of all education and experience levels.
Factors such as geographic location and employer setting can also influence earning potential. For example, medical assistants employed at outpatient care centers tend to earn more than those working in offices of chiropractors, according to the BLS.1
Interested in becoming a medical assistant?
Now that you’ve heard all about the medical assistant job description and salary, you might be even more confident that this is the healthcare career you’ve been hoping for. Becoming a medical assistant will allow you to put your caring personality to work for patients and fellow members of the medical team.
Start planning your next steps by visiting our article “How to Become a Medical Assistant.” If you’re ready to dive right in, the Medical Assisting Diploma page can fill you in on the details of the program.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed June 2021]. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Completion time is dependent on the number transfer credits accepted and the number of courses completed each term.
3The application fee for each qualified student’s first exam attempt is included in the total program costs. Should you need to take the exam more than once to receive a passing score, you will be responsible for all subsequent exam application fees.
4Graduates of our programmatically accredited Medical Assisting programs can sit for the CMA or RMA (AMT) exam; graduates of our non-programmatically accredited Medical Assisting programs can sit for the RMA (AMT) exam. Visit the accreditation page for full details regarding programmatic accreditation.
5Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 264,207 medical assistant job postings, June 1, 2020 – May 31, 2021)
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2021.
Certified Medical Assistant is a registered trademark of the American Association of Medical Assistants.