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Doctor's Assistant: Employment and Career Information

Mar 23, 2019

Doctor's assistants, or medical assistants, may perform a range of administrative and clinical support duties to facilitate a smooth-running office and relieve the doctor of extraneous tasks. Learn about the training, salary and employment outlook for this health care profession.

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Career Definition for a Doctor's Assistant

Exact duties vary greatly by an office and the needs of the practitioner, though most administrative doctor's assistants act as an amalgam of receptionist, secretary, and a non-clinical medical assistant whose primary function is to ensure a well-run office. They accomplish this by maintaining necessary office supplies, scheduling appointments, arranging for laboratory services, greeting patients, handling co-pays, and minor insurance issues. They may prepare exam rooms, keeping them neat and clean, and ordering medical supplies per specific physician instructions.

It is important to note that clinical duties such as the taking of vital signs are usually only performed by certified medical assistants pursuant to state law, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov).

Required Education An associate's degree in office administration, allied health or a related medical field preferred by employers
Job Duties Include maintaining necessary office supplies, scheduling appointments and greeting patients
Median Salary (2017)* $32,480 (all medical assistants)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 29% growth (all medical assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Formal educational requirements are highly dependent upon the level of responsibility of the position and inclination of the hiring physician. Most prefer at minimum an associate's degree in office administration, allied health, or related medical field. This entry-level position provides an opportunity to learn the basic functions of medical practice and often serves as a path for advancement into management and clinical positions. Formal education speeds this process and provides a foundation for additional learning.

Skills Required

Doctor's assistants interact with patients and their medical information so must be conscientious, discreet, reliable, and show good judgment. They should also be able to anticipate the needs of physicians, patients, and the office to avert supply shortages, avoid unnecessary patient snags, and prevent time-consuming billing issues that distract from patient care.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a much-faster-than-average increase of 29% in the number of medical assistant positions, from 2016-2026. The wage of a doctor's assistant is highly variable and greatly dependent upon the level of responsibility. The BLS reported an annual median salary of $32,480 for medical assistants in 2017.

Alternate Career Options

Dental Assistant

Those more interested in assisting with administrative and clinical tasks in a dental office might want to explore this occupation. The education requirements vary by state, with some requiring only a high school diploma and on-the-job training, while other states require completion of accredited programs with possible licensing exams. The BLS projected much-faster-than-average job growth of 19%, from 2016-2026, and reported an annual median wage in 2017 of $37,630.

Nursing Aides, Orderlies and Attendants

Aides and attendants usually need to earn postsecondary certificates, while orderlies may only need a high school diploma. Aides are usually required to pass a state exam to prove competence, in addition. All three of these occupations provide basic assistance to patients in nursing homes, hospitals and other types of long-term care facilities. The BLS expected faster-than-average job expansion of 11% during the 2016-2026 decade and reported annual median salaries in 2017 of $27,520 for nursing assistants and $27,180 for orderlies.

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