Advancement Opportunities for Medical Assistants

A medical assistant could return to college and eventually become a registered nurse, healthcare administrator, or physician assistant. Let's go over the these jobs and what it takes to get them.

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Medical Assistant Career Ladder

Medical assistants do administrative work and some clinical tasks in various healthcare settings. While a postsecondary award or on-job training is sufficient for medical assistants, more advanced positions demand a college degree. If you want to opt for a bachelor's degree, healthcare administration and nursing are your best bets. A master's could allow you to become a physician assistant. Additionally, employment growth is promising for all three.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2016)* Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)* Required Education
Registered Nurse $68,450 15% Bachelor's degree (BSN), Associate's degree (ADN), or diploma
Healthcare Administrator $96,540 (medical and health services managers) 20% (medical and health services managers) Bachelor's degree
Physician Assistant $101,480 37% Master's degree

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information

Registered Nurse

Becoming a registered nurse is an obvious next step for medical assistants looking to advance their career. To achieve that position, you'll need a BSN, an ADN, or possibly a diploma from an accredited nursing school. Licensure is also mandatory. Medical assistants may already have experience in patient care, the primary duty of a registered nurse. One major difference between the two is that medical assistants have less concentrated responsibilities whereas nurses engage mainly in patient care. While nurses do clerical work, such as charting a patient's information and history, most of their shift consists of observing a patient's condition, communicating with them and their family members, administering medication, performing basic diagnostic tests, and collaborating with doctors. Nurses can also work in a specific unit such as neonatology, rehabilitation, or intensive care. Long, irregular, and strenuous work hours should be expected.

Healthcare Administrator

Healthcare administrators run and coordinate medical and health services in hospitals, nursing homes, or other facilities. They typically manage finances, reports, policies, procedures, staffing, work scheduling, admissions, personnel, and departmental goals. They also ensure their facility is legally compliant and up-to-date, and act as representatives. There are two types of administrators: generalists and specialists. Generalists would complete nearly all the aforementioned duties while specialists would cover one of them. To enter this career, you will need a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration or a similar major, though master's degrees are common and sometimes preferred. Many healthcare administrators also have experience in clinical or administrative roles, such as a nurse or a medical assistant.

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants work directly under the supervision of physicians. Duties vary by several factors, including the type of medical practice and how much assistance the doctor requires. A physician assistant can work in various areas of medical care, including family medicine, emergency clinics, surgery, and psychiatry. PAs engage in primary care, from examining patients to, if authorized, treating them and making diagnoses. Physician assistants must have a master's degree, healthcare experience, and be licensed. So, in the time it takes to complete college and graduate school, you'll obtain more experience in patient care in addition to the experience you have as a medical assistant.

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