Medical assistants assist in the operation of a doctor's office by performing administrative and clinical tasks. Administrative tasks include filling out forms, insurance billing, arranging for lab tests and scheduling exams such as X-rays. They may answer phones and greet patients.
Medical assistants in a clinical role may take the patient's vital signs, explain procedures, and prep the patient for the doctor's exam. They may collect medical specimens, sterilize instrument, draw blood, perform EKGs and remove sutures. Some of these medical activities vary by state based on what is permissible.
Medical assistants can take a one year training program that results in a certificate, or opt for a two year associates degree program. Courses include both medical basics such as administering medication, laboratory techniques, handling sterile equipment, drawing blood, physiology and pharmaceutical practices. The administrative courses cover office management, file management, typing and insurance processing.
Medical assistants entering the field should obtain certification, which is offered by a number of certifying organizations. Requirements vary among the institutions.
There were 417,000 medical assistants working in 2007. Almost two thirds of them worked in doctor's offices. Twelve percent worked in hospitals, and another 11 percent worked for chiropractors, osteopaths or other practitioners.
The Department of Labor's projected growth for this job from 2006 - 2016 is thirty five percent, far above the average rate of growth for all occupations. The medical practices are growing larger, sometimes with dozens of affiliated doctors. These businesses need additional support personnel.
Lowest 10% $9.54 $19,850
Median Salary $13.19 $27,430
Highest 10% $18.50 $38,490