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Healthcare Assistant: Career Options and Education Requirements

Sep 26, 2019

Healthcare assistants require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Healthcare assistants are required to have a high school diploma or GED and on-the-job training. However, it's common for individuals to complete a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program to prepare for this career field.

Essential Information

Healthcare assistants, also known as medical assistants, are administrative employees who support medical professionals. Their duties often include clerical tasks, such as processing insurance information and scheduling appointments, but trained assistants may perform basic medical jobs, including taking temperatures and blood pressure. Some are high school graduates who receive on-the-job training, but most have completed certificate or associate's degree programs at community colleges or technical schools. Professional certifications are optional but can demonstrate competency in particular areas. They usually require training and passing an examination.

Required Education High school diploma or GED certificate plus on-the-job training is sometimes sufficient; a certificate or associate's degree is most common
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 23% for medical assistants
Median Salary (2018)* $33,610 for medical assistants

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Options for Healthcare Assistants

Individuals looking for a career as a medical or healthcare assistant can seek employment in a wide variety of settings, including doctor's offices, hospitals or clinics. Most healthcare settings have a number of medical assistants to process patient medical histories and insurance information. Qualified healthcare assistants perform basic medical tasks, such as recording a patient's vital signs and taking blood samples. Specialized assistants could also choose to work in the offices of medical specialists, such as chiropractors, podiatrists and pediatricians. Healthcare assistants employed in smaller doctor's offices might be responsible for appointment scheduling or ordering medical supplies.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted substantial growth in the employment of medical assistants between 2018 and 2028, anticipating a 23% rise in demand for the professionals. In May 2018, the BLS reported that medical assistants earned a median annual salary of $33,610. The majority of assistants worked in private doctors' offices, though some of the higher salaries came from the computer systems design and scientific research services industries.

Education Requirements for Healthcare Assistants

Some healthcare assistants could receive on-the-job training in professional settings, but the BLS stated that the majority complete a postsecondary training program provided by technical or vocational schools. Community colleges also award associate's degrees in medical assisting that teach students medical terminology and ethics. These programs typically take 1-2 years and combine traditional classes with clinical experiences.

Students pursuing certificates or associate's degrees from community colleges or vocational schools learn a range of subjects in sciences and technology, including biology, computer science and pharmacology. Many programs also include courses in basic business skills, such as accounting, keyboarding and medical billing.

Certification

Healthcare technicians could also earn professional certification through organizations, such as the American Association of Medical Assistants or the Association of Medical Technologists. Optional certification generally demonstrates proficiency in a variety of medical supportive roles, and professionals could choose from credentials in a number of skills, such as lab proficiencies, office technologies or clinical specialties. Certification candidates must usually complete an accredited training program and pass a certification examination.

Healthcare assistants may work in such settings as doctor's offices, clinics and hospitals. They perform administrative tasks, such as processing patient medical histories or their insurance information. They may also perform basic medical tasks, such as taking a patient's temperature or their blood pressure.

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