How Much Do Medical Assistants Make?
In 2017, medical assistants earned a median salary of $32,480. Like in most careers, salaries for this profession vary depending on a number of factors, such as education, years of experience, and location, with median salaries ranging from $23,830 for the 10th percentile and $45,900 for those in the 90th percentile. Salaries can also differ based on the type of healthcare organization you work for, such as a hospital or an assisted living home. Average salaries for medical assistants by where they work are as follows:
|Industry||Average Salary (2017)|
|Assisted living/retirement communities||$27,800|
|Outpatient care facilities||$35,260|
|Non-physician's offices (therapists', chiropractors', optometrists', etc.)||$30,770|
Medical assistants' bridge the gap between the administrative side of healthcare and the clinical aspects. As a medical assistant, you'll perform a wide variety of tasks to support both physicians and patients.
Some medical assistant responsibilities include taking vital signs and personal info from patients, scheduling appointments, filling out medical and insurance forms, coordinating lab tests for patients, counseling patients about their medications, and drawing blood.
If you want to focus solely on clinical or administrative duties, you can find opportunities for specialization in hospitals and larger doctor's offices. However, the career outlook is better for professionals who can handle both clinical and administrative tasks, especially in clinics and group practices.
Certified Medical Assistant Salary
Average Salary: $31,155
Non-Certified Average Salary: $30,765
As a medical assistant, you can also choose to become certified, either to build your resume or to meet requirements for specific employers who are looking for certified professionals. While certification may be an asset for finding employment, it's important to note that the salary level for certified medical assistants isn't substantially higher than that of non-certified medical assistants.
For comparison, certified medical assistants earned an average salary of $31,155 in 2018, while non-certified medical assistants earned an average salary of $30,765. Although earning potential may not differ too drastically, certified medical assistants may have an edge in the job market.
If you are seeking certification as a medical assistant, you can choose from five different options, offered by various professional organizations. Certification options include Certified Medical Assistant, National Certified Medical Assistant, Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, Certified Medical Administrative Assistant, and Registered Medical Assistant.
Medical Assistant Starting Salary
Entry-Level Salary: $29,566
Medical assistants have the advantage of learning while on the job, so you can typically begin your career as soon as you finish high school or a short-term certificate program. As an entry-level medical assistant, you can anticipate a median annual salary of about $29,566. You can expect your salary to increase in conjunction with your experience level, as is evident below:
Salary from 5-10 years: $31,797
Salary from 10-20 years: $34,736
Salary after more than 20 years: $37,694
If you're considering a long-term career as a medical assistant, it should be noted that many of these positions require weekend or evening schedules, since many healthcare facilities are open around the clock to serve patients at any hour.
Medical Assistant vs CNA Salary
As of 2017, the median salary for CNAs was $27,520, which is about $5,000 less than medical assistants earned.
Medical assistants and CNAs are both key figures in the healthcare field, but they perform distinct duties. While medical assistants handle both clinical and administrative tasks, CNAs perform tasks that focus more completely on the patient. They work under the supervision of nurses, such as RNs or LPNs, providing hands-on care and assistance with day-to-day tasks, primarily in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities, or through in-home health.
While certification is optional for medical assistants, you'll be required to be certified before starting your career as a CNA. Medical assistants and CNAs need some of the same skills in order to be effective in these positions, including interpersonal and communication skills.
LPN vs Medical Assistant Salary
LPNs earn a median salary that is about $13k higher than medical assistants, at $45,030 in 2017. Nursing care facilities offered LPNs the highest average salary in 2017, at $47,030 and also had the highest number of LPNs employed, compared to other healthcare facilities.
While an LPN may earn a higher salary, this position also requires more extensive education and a license, compared to the job of medical assistant, which only requires a high school diploma in many states. In some cases, LPNs may supervise medical assistants, depending on state regulations. LPNs, like CNAs, directly serve the patient, and generally don't perform the administrative tasks common for medical assistants. LPNs are directly supervised by RNs or doctors and may be responsible for:
- Inserting catheters
- Helping patients with bathing or other daily tasks
- Collecting lab samples
- Checking blood pressure
- Starting IVs (depending on state regulations)
Let's compare average salaries for medical assistants and LPNs by industry:
|Industry||LPN Salary (2017)||Medical Assistant Salary (2017)|
|Assisted Living Facilities||$46,710||$27,800|
What State Has the Highest Salary for Medical Assistants?
There are job opportunities for medical assistants in all states in the U.S., although some states may require you to have some specialized training in medical assisting before finding a job. As you might expect, salaries for medical assistants vary by state due to many factors, such as market need and cost of living. The table below provides a look at the top-paying states for medical assistants.
|State||Average Salary (2017)|
The District of Columbia is also a high-paying area for medical assistants, with professionals there earning an average salary of $40,570.
If you're flexible about where you want to work, you can choose from a number of other states that pay above the nationwide average for this profession, with states including Vermont, Oregon, Hawaii, California, and Connecticut paying between $36,000 and $37,000.
All statistics come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017) and PayScale.com (2018).