Medical Assisting as a Profession: An Overview

Healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and is projected to be the largest job sector in the country by 2019. Most people who are looking to choose a career path or alter their current one might decipher this to mean that they must become some kind of doctor or nurse.

Thankfully for them, there is another occupation within the industry that requires a fraction of the schooling and has promising job prospects. Medical assistant is one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States. This career path offers much of the same upside that other healthcare professionals enjoy, in addition to perks of its own.

Becoming a medical assistant can potentially be a great fit for someone looking to get into the healthcare field. This post provides aspiring healthcare professionals with an overview of the medical assistant occupation and will hopefully answer many of the questions one might have.

What do Medical Assistants do?

According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), a medical assistant is someone who works alongside doctors, usually in a clinical or office setting. Though this description might sound like that of some kind of nurse, there are few significant differences.  

Medical assistants routinely handle duties such as checking vital signs and showing patients to their rooms, in addition to a slew of administrative duties. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), on the other hand, provide basic care measures like catheterization and prescription administration.

While medical assistants are frequently found working in clinics and ambulatory care centers, licensed practical nurses more often work in settings such as nursing homes and hospitals.

Medical assistants perform a multitude of different tasks that are essential to keeping medical clinics and offices open, on top of treating patients. Some of the common responsibilities of medical assistants include:

  • Recording patient medical information
  • Preparing blood samples for lab tests
  • Answering phones and scheduling appointments
  • Aiding physicians in patient examinations

The duties and capabilities of medical assistants vary depending on the doctor for whom they work and state laws.

Their versatile skills and the daily demands of the work environment provide them with a great deal of variety on any given workday. The patients who come in, and the ailments they suffer from, vary daily.

Medical assistants help physicians run their offices and clinics at peak efficiency, but they also treat patients with compassion and understanding during their visit. As their fellow healthcare professionals do, medical assistants can take satisfaction in knowing they are bettering the lives of the patients they serve.  

Where do Medical Assistants work?

As we established in the previous section, medical assistants play vital roles in the day-to-day operations of medical offices and clinics across the country. With this in mind, they are found in a great number of medical settings, though most heavily in doctors’ offices.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 59 percent of medical assistants work in physicians’ offices. Hospitals are the next most common work settings for medical assistants, employing 15 percent of the medical assistant workforce.

Medical assistants also work in outpatient care facilities and other healthcare environments.

What Salary do Medical Assistants make?

As far as annual salary is concerned, medical assistants are compensated comparably to other healthcare support professionals. The median salary for a medical assistant as of May 2016 was $31,540, according to the BLS.

Medical assistant salaries also vary depending on where they are employed. Professional medical assistants who work at outpatient care centers earned the most money among medical assistant job settings, making a median of $33,560, per BLS data.

How is the job outlook for Medical Assistants?

As is the case with many occupations within the healthcare industry, the job outlook for medical assistants is highly promising. According to the BLS, the number of medical assistant jobs is anticipated to increase by 23 percent through 2024.

The projected uptick is attributed to the increased demand for medical support staff members in physicians’ offices and health clinics to provide healthcare services to an increasing number of aging baby boomers. The increase in the number of healthcare facilities is another factor in the rising demand for medical assistants.

Medical assistants are the cogs that allow medical offices and healthcare clinics to function smoothly. They direct the flow of patients throughout the facility and take on a variety of other clinical and administrative duties. Doctors of all specialties and medical fields need medical assistants to help run their offices.

How do you get started?

For you to begin working as a medical assistant, most employers require you to have a certificate from a postsecondary education institution. Medical assistant training programs are readily available at many community colleges and trade and vocational schools.

One benefit of studying to become a medical assistant is that students can begin working sooner than their counterparts who choose to attend nursing programs at four-year colleges and universities. Many schools offer medical assistant programs that can be completed in less than two years.

Unlike doctors or nurses, medical assistants do not need additional training before landing an entry-level job. There is no additional waiting to complete a residency program because externships are often part of the curriculum and completed at the same time as the coursework.

Depending on where a medical assistant is employed, national certification may be required. Most states do not require CMA certification, but many programs prepare students to pass the exam should they choose to take it. It is also worth noting that certification can bolster a medical assistant’s résumé and entice potential employers. 

Medical assistants graduate with the knowledge and experience needed to excel in the healthcare industry. They are trained in both the clinical and the administrative aspects of running a medical office or healthcare clinic. Medical assistants receive additional training on the job during their first positions.

With an array of skills at their disposal, medical assistants can explore different areas of medicine and discover what they are passionate about.

Medical assistants have the chance to specialize in a specific kind of medicine, teach medical assisting classes to students who also want to be medical assistants or become managers at offices and clinics. Some medical assistants also go back to school to pursue more advanced degrees after they have been in the field for a while.

Begin your healthcare career with a great training program

Coyne College is one of Chicago’s top skilled trade education institutions and is proud to offer its medical assistant program to future healthcare professionals.

Coyne College offers day and night classes for both programs to accommodate your busy schedule. Both programs are offered at the Coyne College campus, located in the heart of the Chicago Loop at the intersection of State and Madison streets.

Coyne College’s medical assistant program thoroughly prepares you to enter the healthcare field as a medical assistant. The program can be completed in as little as 54 weeks.

As a medical assistant student at Coyne College, you will gain the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed as a medical assistant. Some of the topics covered in the program’s curriculum include:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy and Pathophysiology
  • Basic Insurance and Billing
  • And more!

Coyne College’s medical assistant program also helps give its students a leg up on the competition by featuring a six-week portion dedicated to electronic health records.

You will learn the ins and outs of medical assisting in an environment where you are surrounded by instructors dedicated to helping you succeed. Coyne’s instructors are highly knowledgeable and have years of meaningful experience in the workforce.

All medical assistant students are required to complete an externship following the completion of all of the necessary coursework.

Following the completion of the medical assistant certificate program, you will be ready to enter the workforce as a medical assistant in any number of healthcare settings.

Worried about finding an entry-level position that will suit you? Coyne College offers a wealth of career services and job placement help for its students, including networking and résumé advice.

With more than 110 years of experience in helping aspiring skilled trade professionals realize their dreams, Coyne College has a well-developed network of resources to help students gain employment after they finish their studies. 

Students who enroll at Coyne College receive a well-rounded, first-rate education that provides them with the tools to succeed in the workforce as a medical assistant.

Start your journey to bettering the lives of patients today by visiting