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How to Become a Medical Administrative Assistant


There were 634,400 medical assistant jobs in 2016. And that number just keeps on growing.

Medical assistant jobs offer a rewarding and exciting career in a fast-paced medical environment. Do you think you have what it takes?

Read on to learn all you need to know about becoming a medical administrative assistant.

What Is a Medical Administrative Assistant?

When you walk into a medical clinic, hospital or health care facility, the person sitting behind the front desk is typically a medical assistant.

A medical assistant plays a vital role in the daily operation of a doctor’s office. Medical assistant jobs involve taking care of all the clerical duties of the office. Read more about the outlook for medical assistants.

The role includes filing records, ordering lab tests, coding medical records, and completing forms for insurance companies. They also send lab results to the right location.

Medical assistants might also use a medical database to log records and can compile medical charts and records for better efficiency in the office.

Besides these clerical duties, medical assistants also perform general administrative tasks such as answering the phone and making appointments. Bookkeeping might also be on the list of duties, especially in a small practice.

Young doctor assistant standing in medical office noting prescriptions

Keep in mind that a medical administrative assistant is different than a medical assistant (though we use the term interchangeably in this article). A medical assistant performs admin duties but also performs medical duties like prepping patients for exams and procedures.

Day-to-Day Duties of a Medical Administrative Assistant

Your most important task as a medical administrative assistant is to keep your office running efficiently and smoothly.

The specific functions you do each day will depend on what type of practice you work in. It also depends on your department. You will spend a good amount each day interacting with patients (in person and on the phone) and also physicians.

You will also give patients exceptional customer service and help them feel comfortable.

Education Requirements

The best way to learn how to work in medical assistant jobs is with on-the-job medical assistant training.

Yet, there are also many medical assistant training programs that will give you a leg up on the competition. Look for colleges that offer 2-year Associate in Applied Science (AAS) programs. Or, you can opt to take a one-year program to get a diploma or certificate.

You can also become a certified medical assistant. More on that below.

You don’t have to have medical assistant certification for many jobs, yet it can certainly help get you the job.

Courses You Will Likely Take

Medical assistant programs offer a wide variety of courses that will prepare you for your role as a medical administrative assistant.

Here are some of the courses you may be expected to take:

  • Accounting
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • computer applications
  • Ethics
  • Essentials in pharmaceuticals
  • healthcare law
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical office procedures
  • Medical insurance and billing

However, all programs are different. Check each college’s website for information on pre-requisites and required coursework.

On top of your academic courses, you will also get practical job experience by completing a placement in a medical setting.

Medical Administrative Assistant Certification Requirements

If you were the hiring manager at a clinic, would you rather hire the person with the relevant certification or someone without it?

Many organizations look for medical administrative assistants who have a type of certification.

Many professional associations offer certification including the American Association of Medical Assistants. Sometimes, certification is offered through the school program you attend. Or there are various online certification programs.

There are two choices for certification. You can choose to take a certification program or write an exam.

The certification programs can range from anywhere from six months to a year.

During this certification, you will learn everything you need to know about being a medical administrative assistant. You’ll learn the medical terms and abbreviations you’ll be expected to know. You’ll also learn the guidelines and regulations surrounding health care.

Your other option is to choose to write and pass a nationally recognized exam. This option allows you to bypass the training. This is a good option for those who have already completed a degree or program elsewhere.

Job Prospects and Potential Pay

By now you’re probably wondering if becoming a medical administrative assistant is worth the effort. You are wondering about the job outlook in the next 10-15 years and the average salary.

The good news is that medical assistants are in high demand. America is aging. The rising amount of elderly in the country will prompt a higher need for health care.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the medical assistance field will grow much faster than average. In fact, statistics show that the demand for these jobs will increase by a whopping 22% from now until 2026.

The average yearly salary for medical administrative assistants is $44,950.

With experience, you can expect a steady raise over your lifetime.

Your salary will also depend on where you work geographically as well as in what field. Medical assistants working in research typically earn more.

Skills Needed to Excel as a Medical Assistant

Not everyone is cut out to do well as a medical administrative assistant. On top of the skills you learn in school, you need to have various other soft skills that will help you succeed in your chosen profession.

Medical administrative assistants act as the face of the organization to the patients. They also interact often with insurance providers and physicians. It’s crucial that they have excellent people and customer service skills.

A medical assistant wears many different hats (often at the same time). It’s helpful to be able to be a good multi-tasker. The best medical assistants are extremely organized and efficient.

Decision-making skills are also an asset. This will help you choose the best course of action when things don’t go according to plan.

Where Medical Assistants Work

Medical administrative assistants work in a variety of settings. Many work in private doctor’s clinics as well as walk-in and urgent care clinics.

There is also a need for medical assistants in both private and public hospitals. This includes outpatient clinics.

There are limited jobs at specialist offices such as at the offices of optometrists, chiropractors, and podiatrists.

Alternative Careers

If you like the medical field but aren’t sure if a medical administrative assistant is the right fit for you, there are other options you can explore.

Similar career options include medical secretary and health information technician. Here is what you need to know about each.

Medical Secretary

A medical secretary is a similar role to that of a medical administrative assistant. In fact, some clerical tasks may overlap.

Yet, medical secretaries perform even more complex office duties such as dictating notes for a doctor, fixing billing issues and dealing with insurance companies over patient coverage.

High-school education might be sufficient to get a job as a medical secretary. Yet, most clinics will prefer to hire those who have some college courses under their belt. Particularly in medical terminology and office procedures.

The average salary for a medical secretary is $24,857. And just like medical assistants, medical secretary roles are seeing faster-than-average job growth.

Though it is less money, this may be a better fit for you.

Health Information Technician

Health information technicians deal with the storage and retrieval of patient files. If you are an efficient person who loves to improve processes, this may be the perfect job for you.

Health information technicians organize paper and digital documents. They look at patient records to make sure they are accurate and complete.

They code files for various other purposes, convert paper files to digital formats and make sure documents are protected against unauthorized access.

This role has a lot less interaction with patients though there is still some interaction with insurance companies and physicians.

Those interested in this role will benefit from completing a health information technology associate degree. There are also some certificate programs available for this field.

The average salary for a health information technician is $36,698.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading. We hope this in-depth look at the exciting career of medical administrative assistant has been useful.

If you enjoy interacting with people, enjoy multitasking and can keep your cool in a busy working environment, then this may be the perfect job for you.

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