(6.7 out of 10)
|Number of Jobs:||162,900|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Healthcare Jobs||#16|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#34|
Whether it's in the front of the office or behind the scenes, a routine visit to the doctor is really a visit with an entire team—including a growing number of medical assistants. Medical assistants are likely the first and last faces you see during any medical appointment, either in your doctors' offices or at a larger medical organization. The job is a mix of traditional office work—like manning the front desk, answering phones, and filing insurance forms—as well as hands-on tasks including checking vital signs, drawing blood, sterilizing surgical equipment, and making sure medical histories are accurately recorded. More-specialized roles for medical assistants include working in the eye-care field assisting ophthalmologists or optometrists, conducting basic vision tests, or helping patients learn to insert, remove, and care for contact lenses.
The profession continues to grow handily despite a weak economy, and assistants who support doctors and nurses as they diagnose and treat patients are definitely in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects medical assistant employment growth of 30.9 percent between 2010 and 2020, with the field adding 162,900 jobs. That sizeable employment growth puts medical assistants among the top healthcare jobs.
The BLS reports that the median annual wage for a medical assistant was $29,100 in 2011, up slightly from the prior year. The best-paid 10 percent of medical assistants made $40,810, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $20,880. The highest wages are found working in physicians’ offices or hospitals. By location, the highest-paid positions are clustered in the metropolitan areas near Fairbanks, Alaska, San Francisco, Barnstable Town, Mass., and Napa, Calif.
No formal training is required to become a medical assistant, and workers can enter the field and learn on the job with just a high-school diploma. There are a variety of one-year certification programs or two-year associate's degrees offered in the field, teaching students laboratory techniques, clinical procedures, medical terminology, record keeping, and some specialization in fields such as podiatry or optometry.
The good news for aspiring medical assistants is that the industry requires relatively little in the way of formal training or education compared with other jobs in the medical field. But that also means it can be tougher to stand out among a sea of applicants. In addition to certification programs, networking with organizations in the field can make a huge difference, says Jean Lynch, director of communications and marketing at the American Association of Medical Assistants. One of the best ways to get ahead as a medical assistant is to volunteer, she says. "It doesn't have to be your whole life. Work on a blood-pressure drive. Spend a Saturday at it. That can go on a resume," Lynch says. She also recommends keeping abreast of how the healthcare industry is changing and what issues are facing the people who actually hire medical assistants, by reading up on the industry using the websites of organizations like the Medical Group Management Association.
|Upward Mobility||Below Average|
|Stress Level||Above Average|
Last updated by Kirk Shinkle.