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Medical Assistant Career Profile

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The Medical Assistant career represents one of the fastest growing segments of the healthcare industry. The ongoing growth in healthcare has created a unique opportunity for individuals interested in participating in the job growth and becoming part of this dynamic industry.

Medical Assistant Job Description

A medical assistant will provide a wide variety of valuable services. Typical duties will vary according to the type and size of healthcare facility. Duties may include setting appointments and interacting with patients, answering phone calls, responding to inquiries and requests from patients and health practitioners, updating patient health records and files, completing insurance paperwork and electronically updating patient information, and performing basic accounting and billing services. In other words, the medical assistant job offers a great deal of variety and a good deal of interaction with people - both patients and health professionals. Over time, it is possible to advance in training and certification to participate in more of the clinical responsibilities such as taking vitals and scheduling lab work or preparing patients for specific exams and explaining the exam procedure process to patients.

Medical Assistant Training Requirement>

In the past most medical assistants simply entered the field with no formal training and no certification. While this sometimes still occurs, it is now becoming more common for medical assistants to receive formal training before being hired. Employers take a positive view of the commitment and experience required to successfully complete a training program. It confers a significant competitive advantage on an individual wishing to enter the career field. Most Medical Assistant training programs can be completed in approximately 1 year. Good training programs can be found online or in a variety of vocational schools or even community colleges. Online medical assistant schools offer a great option and provide an opportunity to complete studies from virtually anywhere and according to your own schedule.

Where the Medical Assistant Jobs Are

The majority of Medical Assistants (over 60%) are employed in physician's offices and clinics. A significant number also work in hospitals. There is also a demand for medical assistants to work in chiropractor, optometry, and a diversity of other health related areas such as care centers and nursing homes.

Typical Coursework Required for Medical Assistant Training Programs

Coursework for Medical Assistant training programs will include:

Medical Terminology
Human Anatomy, Physiolgy and Disease Processes
Medical Transcription
Medical Billing and Coding
Bookkeeping and Accounting
Insurance Processing
Lab Techniques
Diagnostic Procedures
Introduction to Pharmaceuticals

Obviously most of these courses are designed to provide a solid introduction to these areas. You will not be expected to achieve expert status in these areas but will need to be familiar with all of these areas as you will have interactions in many or all of these areas as a professional medical assistant.

Medical Assistant Certification

As is the case with training, formal certification is not a hard and fast requirement to become a medical assistant. However, it is advisable to work toward a medical assistant certification in order to demonstrate your commitment and competency in your chosen career field. It is likely that as promotions and raises are passed out, you will gain more traction and receive more respect from peers and supervisors if you are a credentialed medical assistant. The process of becoming certified involves preparing for and sitting for a certification exam administered by the AAMA - American Association of Medical Assistants. Individuals who are successful in completing and passing the AAMA exam will become Certified Medical Assistants (CMA). The AAMA offers ongoing continuing education credits which must be taken to continue to maintain your status as a Certified Medical Assistant.

Advantages of a Medical Assistant Career

Relative Ease of Entry into Medical Assistant Career Field

While there are formal training programs for Medical Assistants, there is technically no formal training requirement. It is advisable, however, to receive training and certification to set yourself apart from others wishing to enter the Medical Assisting profession. There are a number of good local and online training programs that will prepare individuals for a Medical Assistant Career.

High Career Growth Expected in Medical Assistant Field

The Medical Assistant Career, like most career opportunities in the healthcare industry is growing rapidly. In fact the US Department of Labor ranks the Medical Assistant Career as one of the fastest growing of all careers over the next decade. The Department of Labor estimates a 34% 10 year growth rate for the Medical Assistant Career. This is a phenomenal rate of growth, outstripping most other careers.

High Volume of New Medical Assistant Jobs Anticipated

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 483,600 Medical assistants practicing in the US. Given the 34% projected BLS growth rate, that translates into approximately 164,500 new medical assistant jobs created over the course of the next decade. This represents an enormous opportunity for individuals willing to do what it takes to enter this exciting and fast growing career field.

Challenging and Active Work Environment

Medical Assistants report being continually challenged in what is a dynamic and constantly evolving healthcare environment.

Upward Mobility and Career Promotion Opportunities

Due to the sheer volume of new job growth in the Medical Assistant career, coupled with the ongoing training and management requirement, there will be significant opportunities for individuals to receive promotions and pay increases. This particularly holds true for those individuals who assert themselves and set themselves apart through advanced training and certification.

Disadvantages of a Medical Assistant Career

Because the Medical Assistants is an entry-level career with no formal training requirement, the initial pay is not as high as other more skilled practitioners such as a Registered Nurse (RN) or Physical Therapist. However, many medical assistants find that with continuing training and certification, they can rapidly move up into higher skilled areas of the vast healthcare network. It is definitely a great starting point.

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