Medical Assistants are key to the operation of physician offices, medical clinics, outpatient services, hospitals, etc. Their role can be varied from administrative and/or clinical/administrative positions. These jobs take specific skills and knowledge. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a very positive job outlook for Medical Assistants at a much faster than average 29% over a ten year period; and, estimates that the average salary for a Medical Assistant to be over $32,000 annually for those with a postsecondary degree.
While some employers may hire Medical Assistants with a high school education, those with a postsecondary education have a leg up on hiring because they typically have a certificate or, in some cases, an Associate Degree. Medical Assistant programs are available through community colleges, technical schools, vocational schools or universities. Graduates of these programs will usually receive a certificate, diploma or degree; and, qualifies students to enter the field. Educational programs typically are one year to two years in length.
Certifications and Licensure
In most states, it's not required for a Medical Assistant to be certified or licensed. Although not required, many employers prefer to hire Medical Assistants who have certification from the American Association of Medical Assistants (Certified Medical Assistant) or the National Healthcareer Association (Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA). Medical Assistant educational programs will typically qualify graduates to sit for one of those three certification exams.
Are There Specific Talents Needed?
There are no set requirements to become a Medical Assistant, but there are some qualities that may help you become one.
Because Medical Assistants work with patients, physicians and nurses, an ability to be able to clearly communicate in an interpersonal way. Verbal skills involve not only effective oral communication, but being an active listener who is able to concentrate of what is being said. Active listening requires more than just hearing what the patient is saying, but by paying attention. Using body language to show engagement in what is being said, providing appropriate feedback in a nonjudgmental manner.
Attention To Detail
Medical Assistants work with patient records, physician instructions, billing and reimbursements, obtaining patients vital signs, etc. It's important that Medical Assistants have an ability to concentrate and provide accurate information and data. In healthcare, no detail is too small and it's critical that information is accurately recorded. A clear understanding of state and federal healthcare regulations, such as HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act), to assure care and treatment meets required standards.
Technical and Medical Skills
Most Medical Assistants are required to take and record vital signs. Knowledge of medical terms, techniques and appropriate use of medical tools and devices. Frequently, laboratory tests are required and Medical Assistants should be well versed in the appropriate techniques in collecting, handling and submitting specimens to laboratories.
This field requires an ability to understand, sometimes complex, medical diagnoses, patient charts, precise ICD coding (International Classification of Diseases), accurate insurance submissions and correct billing charges. Not only do insurance companies require detailed information, but the state and federal government require precise records.
You may want to explore Best Medical Degrees listings of 20 Most Affordable Online Medical Assistant Certificate and Diploma Programsand 15 Best Online Medical Assistant Associate Degree Programs to help you find a school that best suits your needs.