What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

A medical assistant is a person who has completed a certified medical assistant program and is trained to perform various medical office tasks.

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Job Description

Medical assistants perform many duties to support the work of physicians and other health professionals. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

Most medical assistants work in primary care, a medical specialty that focuses on the general care of adults and children. In small practices, medical assistants often do many different tasks. They may take patient histories, help with examinations, give injections, schedule appointments, arrange for hospital admission and laboratory services, and transilluminate organs. Some medical assistants specialize in one area of medicine, such as ophthalmology or dermatology. Others may do general office work or apply artificial nails or skin treatments.

In larger practices and clinics, medical assistants usually are assigned specific tasks. Those who take patient histories are called history takers or interviewers. Those who measure patients’ vital signs (height; weight; blood pressure; temperature; pulse; and respiration) are called vital sign technicians or recorders. Medical assistants who prepare patients for examination are called preppers or surgical techs. Those who give injections are called immunizers or injectors.

In addition to their clinical duties, medical assistant responsibilities also include office tasks such as handling phone calls; scheduling appointments; updating and filing patients’ medical records billing insurance companies; transcribing physicians’ notes; handling correspondence; stocking supplies; booking hospital admissions and laboratory services;;and helping to plan social events sponsored by the practice

Duties and Responsibilities

Medical assistants perform many duties and responsibilities to keep the medical office or clinic running smoothly. Here is a list of some of the most common medical assistant duties:

Clinical Duties:
• Checking patient vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, weight, etc.)
• administering injections and vaccinations
• Collecting and processing lab specimens
• Assisting with patient exams
• Educating patients about their health condition
• Instructing patients on how to take their medications

Administrative Duties:
• Answering phones and scheduling appointments
• Greeting patients and collecting their medical history
• Updating patient medical records
• Filling out insurance forms
• Coding and billing insurance companies
• Managing the medical office’s finances
In larger medical facilities, medical assistants may specialize in either clinical or administrative duties. Smaller offices may require medical assistants to perform both types of duties.

Skills and Qualifications

In order to qualify for a position as a medical assistant, you will need to have certain skills and qualifications. First, you should have excellent communication skills. You will be dealing with patients on a daily basis, so it is important that you are able to communicate effectively. You should also have good organizational skills. Medical assistants are often responsible for keeping track of patients’ Medical records scheduling appointments, and managing office supplies. Finally, you should be comfortable working with computers and other office equipment. Most medical offices use computerized systems to keep track of patient information, so it is important that you are familiar with these systems.

Education and Training

Most medical assistants have postsecondary education such as a certificate. Some have completed short-term on-the-job training, while others have an associate degree in medical assisting. Education and training requirements vary by state, but most states allow medical assistants to perform routine tasks and procedures after completing a brief period of on-the-job training. Educational programs for medical assistants often include courses such as anatomy, physiology, Medical Terminology and computer applications.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual wage for medical assistants was $34,800 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $49,540.

In May 2017, the median annual wages for medical assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Offices of physicians$35,810
General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private34,670
Outpatient care centers32,940
Offices of other health practitioners32,070
Employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 29 percent from 2017 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. An aging population will increase demand for preventive medical services. As a result, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties so they can see more patients.


The first step to becoming a medical assistant is to obtain the necessary education and training. Most medical assistants have at least a high school diploma, although some have completed postsecondary education, such as a certificate or associate’s degree program in medical assisting. Once you have completed your education, you will need to obtain certification. Certification for medical assistants is not required in all states, but it may give you an advantage when applying for jobs. The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential is offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To earn this credential, you must pass an exam administered by the Certifying Board of the AAMA.

Career Paths

There are many different paths that a medical assistant can take with their career. The first step is to obtain the proper education and training which will include a certification from an accredited program. Once certified, a medical assistant can work in a variety of settings such as a physician’s office, hospital, outpatient surgery center, or even a residential care facility. The duties of a medical assistant will vary depending on their employer but may include tasks such as taking patient histories and vital signs, scheduling appointments, preparing patients for examinations, assisting with procedures, handling laboratory specimens, and providing patient education. Some medical assistants also choose to specialize in a particular area such as optometry, podiatry, or ophthalmology. With experience and additional training, some medical assistants may even become certified medical assistants or registered nurses.

Working Conditions

Medical assistants work mainly in outpatient care centers, such as medical offices and clinics. They also may work in physicians’ offices, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities.

Most medical assistants work full time. Because they work in health care they often must work evenings or weekends to cover patients’ visits. Some medical assistants may rotate shifts.

Job Opportunities

Medical assistants are in high demand and there are many job opportunities available. With the aging population and the increasing number of people with chronic conditions, the need for medical assistants is expected to continue to grow.

There are many different ways that medical assistants can contribute to the healthcare team. They may work in a clinic or doctor’s office, or they may work in a hospital or other healthcare facility. They may also work in research or teaching positions.

Medical assistants typically have a wide range of duties, including taking medical histories, scheduling appointments, taking vital signs, preparing patients for exams, and assisting with procedures. They may also give injections, take X-rays, and perform other diagnostic tests. In addition, medical assistants may be responsible for billing and coding patient information, ordering supplies, and keeping track of patients’ medical records

Professional Organizations

Medical Assistants are a part of one of the fastest-growing professions in healthcare. The roles and responsibilities of medical assistants are vital to the day-to-day operations of any medical practice. Medical assistants perform many important tasks, including greeting patients, scheduling appointments, taking medical histories, And administering basic diagnostic tests.

While most medical assistants have formal training from an accredited program, there is no national certification or licensing required to work in this field. However, some states do have certification requirements for certain tasks, such as phlebotomy or EKG administration. Many professional organizations offer certification for medical assistants who wish to demonstrate their knowledge and commitment to the profession.

The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) is the largest professional organization for medical assistants in the United States The AAMA offers certification for medical assistants who meet specific educational and experience requirements. Certification from the AAMA is voluntary, but it is widely recognized as a mark of excellence in the profession.

The National Healthcare Association (NHA) also offers certification for medical assistants. The NHA offers two levels of certification — Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT). To be eligible for CCMA certification, candidates must have completed an accredited medical assisting program and passed a written exam. To be eligible for CPT certification, candidates must have completed an accredited phlebotomy training program and passed a written exam.

The American Medical Technologists (AMT) is another organization that offers certification for medical assistants. AMT offers two levels of certification — Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) and Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). Candidates for RMA certification must have completed an accredited medical assisting program and passed a written exam. Candidates for CMA certification must have completed an accredited medical assisting program, passed a written exam, and worked full-time as a medical assistant for at least five years.

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