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What is Medical Assisting?
A medical assistant in responsible for the daily care and treatment of patients, including intake, cleaning, and the delivery of medication all under the supervision of a physician or other qualified medical professional and are responsible for the daily treatment and review of patients, notifying supervisors when changes in the patients status occur. Medical assistants are also responsible for the day to day management of paperwork; supplies and other office work that may otherwise be attributed to a medical office assistant. Medical assisting is a fast growing field that requires the individual to be familiar with medical vocabulary, clinical and hospital environments and standard protocols in order to be effective.
Medical assistant programs provide the knowledge necessary to operate and finish duties within a medical environment such as a clinic or a hospital. Medical assistant programs will offer an associate's degree or certificate depending on the program and typically take between one to two years to complete based on the type of program one is enrolled in. The primary difference between the two is that a certification program offers only classes that are directly related to medical assistance whereas an associate's degree will also have general education courses necessary to earn a degree and the credits earned from which may also be used when pursuing higher level education.
An education in medical assisting may be obtained through private career colleges, specialized schools or community and junior colleges. Such schools typically provide the program and curriculum necessary to successfully enter the field of medical assistance. Students interested in entering the field may find that community and junior colleges generally have lower cost educations versus the accelerated curriculum of a private career college or specialized school.
Courses one may encounter in a medical assistant program include:
- Medical Terminology
- Human Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology
- First Aid
- Medical Laws and Ethics
Employment Information and Specializations
Though medical assistants do not need a postsecondary education to find work, it has become increasingly difficult to do so. Potential employers are quickly turning toward trained professionals to bring into the work place and it is prudent to consider at least a certificate program if one plans to enter the field. Medical assistants will help organize, file, and diagnose patients, if one is licensed to do so, among other tasks. Medical assistants working in a clinical setting may be required to obtain a license depending on state law.
Medical assistants primarily work in clinics and hospitals, though they may be found in smaller practices to assist physicians. The work done by a medical assistant assists in the day to day care of patients as well as administrative tasks as determined by the employer. Medical assistant will work under the supervision of nurses and physicians, as well as medical administrators.
Medical assistants may also pursue specializations, particularly in larger hospitals that require specific skills sets for specific areas of medicine. Such medical assistants may experience an increase in pay and responsibilities as specialization requires the development of new skills and additional knowledge. Clinical, podiatric, and administrative specializations are just some of the many fields a medical assistant may enter. Individuals pursuing long term careers will most likely cover several specializations, as well as expanding their overall skill set in order to provide as many services as possible for their patients and employers.
Job Growth, Salary and Related Fields
Work for medical assistants is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years as a large portion of the population grows older. Demand for medical care will increase, as will the need for medical assistants. The overall demand over the next decade is expected to increase 31%. The increase in the number of health center, hospitals, care facilities, clinics and other service providers will create a number of new positions resulting in more opportunities to go along with opening in previously existing positions due to retirement or turnover.
The average salary for a medical assists is approximately $28,000 per year, with a low of $23,000 per year. Individuals with experience tend to make more, as do those with specializations or degrees. Education often is a determining factor in starting pay, with degree or certificate holders typically earning more than those without.
For additional information about the Medical Assistant profession, please visit our blog for a career overview and important details about the profession.