Medical assistant specialists perform medical and administrative functions in doctors' offices. They also provide assistance in several health fields, including ophthalmology, podiatry and optometry. Job duties include administrative tasks and basic medical functions. such as drawing blood or performing simple vision tests. Most medical assistants complete 1-year or 2-year programs at community colleges or vocational schools. Several professional organizations offer certifications to qualified medical assistants.
|Required Education||1-year or 2-year program in medical assisting|
|Other Requirements||Voluntary certification is available|
|Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*||29% for all medical assistants|
|Median Salary (2013)*||$29,610 for all medical assistants|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Medical assistant specialists are responsible for helping to run the office of a public or private medical practice. These duties include administrative and some clinical duties. They are also trained to provide additional assistance in certain health fields. Medical assistants working in a large practice may specialize in geriatrics, optometry, pediatrics, substance abuse, physical therapy and other areas.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from 2013 indicated that the middle half of all medical assistants at that time earned $25,160 to $35,600 per year. The field should experience a 29% increase in employment opportunities between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS, which is much faster than the national average for all career sectors.
Medical assistant specialists are expected to greet patients, answer phones, make appointments, process insurance paperwork and do bookkeeping as part of their administrative duties. Clinically, medical assistant specialists may be asked to perform electrocardiograms, draw blood, and record patients' vital signs, including blood pressure. In some states, they may also give injections.
Additional duties will vary depending on their specialty. For example, podiatric medical assistants may assist doctors by performing x-rays and assisting in foot surgeries. Or, ophthalmic medical assistants may test patients' vision, apply dressings and give eye medications. Geriatric medical assistants will help care for the elderly, including feeding and dressing them.
Programs for medical assistants can be found at community colleges and postsecondary schools. Students will take courses in first aid, accounting, laboratory procedures, patient relations, anatomy, physiology and more. These medical assisting programs can take from 1-2 years to complete.
Individuals who want to specialize in a health field must take additional training. Certification isn't required in a specialty, but this credential can make a job candidate more appealing to employers. The Association of Medical Technologists and the American Association of Medical Assistants are two organizations which award certifications to medical assistants wishing to specialize.
Potential medical assistant specialists should be caring and personable. They should possess the ability to comfort patients and explain medical procedures and instructions. Because they're dealing with patients' private medical information, they must also be professional and discreet.