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Medical Office Assistant Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation necessary to become a medical office assistant. Get an overview of the requirements - including job duties, degree programs and certification - to find out if this is the right career for you.

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With a certificate, diploma or associate's degree in medical assisting, it is possible to begin a career as a medical office assistant. Medical assistants typically work in hospitals, doctors' offices, and outpatient clinics, and perform administrative and clinical tasks.

Essential Information

Medical office assistants perform a variety of administrative tasks key to the overall functioning of a doctor's office. Training is generally offered through medical assistance diploma, certificate or degree programs and may qualify candidates to earn professional certification. Medical assistance is a growing field with good job prospects, especially for those with formal credentials.

Required Education Diploma, certificate or associate's degree in medical assisting
Other Requirements Optional certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 23% for medical assistants
Average Salary (2015)* $30,590 for medical assistants

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Requirements for Medical Office Assistants

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), there are no formal education or training requirements for medical assistants. However, nearly all medical assistant professionals hold a high school diploma or equivalent and complete a medical assisting program through a vocational school or community college. Typically, one-year programs lead to diplomas or certificates, while associate's degree programs require two years. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Health Education Schools Accrediting Bureau accredit medical assisting programs.

Program Coursework

Medical assisting programs involve academic courses as well as practical experiences in a hospital or physician's office. Coursework covers basic biology, office administration and clinical training topics relevant to medical assisting, including:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Computer applications
  • Accounting
  • Insurance processing
  • Medical ethics
  • Pharmaceutical principles

Get Certified

Professional medical assistant certification is offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants. Although certification is not generally required for work, the AAMA indicates that a growing number of employers prefer to hire certified medical assistants. Earning the CMA credential also demonstrates standard professional aptitude and may provide job security or career advancement opportunities.

To be eligible for certification, a medical assistant must satisfy two requirements. First, candidates must complete formal education through an accredited medical assisting degree program. They must then pass the Certified Medical Assistant Certification Examination, which is administered by the AAMA and requires an exam fee.

Job Duties

Medical office assistants report to an office manager or directly to a physician. The duties performed by medical office assistants vary according to office size and the physicians' specialties. Excellent customer service skills as well as a friendly, calm and neat appearance are necessary for medical office assistant positions.

Medical office assistants perform a variety of administrative tasks. They manage patients' medical records, file insurance forms, schedule appointments and arrange clinical procedures, such as X-rays. They may be in charge of billing and bookkeeping and keeping track of office inventory, ordering medical and office supplies as needed.

With sufficient experience, medical office assistants can advance to office managers or clinical supervisors. Candidates may also opt for further training to become nurses or medical laboratory technicians in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Employment Outlook

Medical assistance is among the fastest growing fields, with employment expected to grow 23% over the period 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also per the BLS, the average annual wage in May of 2015 was $30,590 for medical assistants. Increasing employment of medical office assistants is connected with the expansion of the healthcare industry due to medical advancements and an aging population.

The job outlook for medical office assistants is expected to be much faster than average when compared to all occupations for the 2014-2024 decade. Applicants who have completed a minimum of a one-year certificate in medical assisting will be prepared to enter this field. Those who also have administrative and clerical experience may appeal to employers.

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