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Types of Medical Assistants: Career Info by Specialization

Sep 16, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a medical assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Medical assistants can opt to work in administration, perform clinical duties, or earn certification to specialize in medical fields such as ophthalmology, podiatry, or optometry.

Essential Information

Medical assistants work in a variety of office and clinical settings and are in charge of administrative, clerical and clinical duties. In larger office settings, medical assistants may specialize in one administrative or clinical area. Medical assistants can earn certifications in their chosen specialty. Medical assistants typically have completed a postsecondary degree or certificate program, though some employers may hire high school graduates and train them on the job.

Required Education Postsecondary training common
Other Requirements Optional certification
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 23%
Median Salary (2018)* $33,610

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Medical Assistant Career Information

Most medical assistants earned between $24,790 and $47,250 annually in 2018, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While educational requirements may depend on employer, oftentimes assistants have completed 1-2 years in medical assistant programs at a vocational or technical school, or a 2-year associate's degree program. Further education and specialization as a medical assistant can make candidates more appealing to potential employers in addition to providing higher salaries.

Administrative Medical Assistants

Administrative medical assistants work to help medical offices and clinics run smoothly. They perform various clerical tasks such as answering phones, filling out forms, handling correspondence between the clinic and insurance companies, and updating patients' files and records. Administrative medical assistants should have a basic understanding of medical terminology, excellent communications skills, computer skills and phone etiquette.

Clinical Medical Assistants

Clinical medical assistants have a variety of duties outside of general clerical office work. Depending on state law, clinical assistants can explain treatments to patients, take medical histories and prepare patients for treatment.

Instead of scheduling, filing and answering patients' questions, clinical medical assistants have a more hands-on experience with patients. They may be asked to assist physicians with instruction, preparing specimens and maintaining exam rooms. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) provides certification to medical assistants who have graduated from an accredited program and who have experience and education ranging from patient relations and office practices to medical terminology and human anatomy.

Other Specializations

The Association of Medical Technologists offers certification in several specialized medical assistant fields for candidates who have completed an accredited program and passed certification exam. Certification and specialization can also result in higher wages.

Ophthalmic medical assistants have a medical assistant diploma that specifically addresses ophthalmology, which means they can help ophthalmologists test and care for patients as well as administer eye exams. Podiatric medical assistants may help physicians make castings of feet, develop and file x-rays. Optometric assistants help optometrists, and chiropractic medical assistants aid chiropractors in similar ways. These four specialized medical assistants are just a few examples of the many certified and specialized medical assistant positions available.

The specific roles of medical assistants can vary by state law and training. Additional certification in an area of specialization can lead to a higher salary, and help medical assistants secure work in the medical field they're interested in.

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