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Great Time to Be a Medical Assistant: Demand and Rising Salaries

Mackenzie Thompson

by Mackenzie

Life Saver, NHCPS

posted on Sep 16, 2022 at 7:38 am

National Medical Assistant Week is fast approaching (Oct 19-23). It’s time to celebrate the tremendous contribution of Medical Assistants to patient care. And we’ll also take a look at:

  • Career paths, pay, and job outlook for 2022
  • What’s driving Medical Assistant demand…and will it continue?
  • What it takes to be a Medical Assistant
  • How Medical Assistants maximize their salaries

Career Outlook for a Medical Assistant

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.GOV), the need for Medical Assistants is growing much faster than other professions and slightly faster than healthcare workers in general. They estimate growth of 18% between 2020 and 2030, with over 130,000 new Medical Assistants entering the field in the U.S.

What’s Driving the Demand for Medical Assistants in the United States?

This demand was very predictable and not expected to slow any time soon because the factors driving it will continue. Several healthcare trends are coming together to create an overwhelming need for Medical Assistants, particularly the Clinical Medical Assistant.

  • An aging population. Thanks to better health and wellness, people are living longer. Today, there are over 46M people over 65, a historically high number. It’s expected to double by 2050.
  • Not enough doctors and nurses. Medical professionals are retiring faster than they can be replaced. What’s worse, it takes many years to train a doctor. This sounds like a crisis. But there’s a silver lining. The healthcare industry is solutions-focused. It’s working to increase efficiency. Medical Assistants are a part of the solution.
  • Technological advancements. Improved technology is making it easier for someone who didn’t have to go to school for eight or more years, as a doctor does, to help with patient care in a meaningful way.
  • Once exclusively inpatient procedures can now be done, outpatient. Finally, thanks to technology and the innovative minds who continue to improve it, many procedures that once required days of hospital observation are now less invasive and risky. Outpatient is generally cheaper and more convenient for patients.

All of this has also improved the educational and certification opportunities for Medical Assistants over the last 10-20 years, and we may continue to see Medical Assistant salaries rise because of it.

How Much Can a Medical Assistant Make?

The median salary for a Medical Assistant in the U.S. is $37,190 per year. But this can vary widely by state. It will come as no surprise that the highest-paid Medical Assistants tend to work in areas that also have a higher cost of living, like:

  • Washington
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Massachusetts

The lowest paid Medical Assistants are in states like Mississippi and South Dakota

How Medical Assistants Increase Their Salary Potential

Besides location, other factors may influence your starting pay and the job opportunities available. Some of these are:

  • The reputation of the Vocational School or Community College
  • Length of the program. They can range from 12 weeks to two years, costing between $2,500 and $12,000, according to Cost Helper. Obviously, a longer program can go more in-depth.
  • Years of experience
  • Work setting
  • Being a Certified or Registered Medical Assistant. You may be required to work 12 months before taking the certification exam. Getting certified alone can raise your pay, on average, 10%.
  • Having additional related certifications like:
    • CET — Certified EKG Technician
    • CSC — Customer Service Certified
    • CPT — Certified Phlebotomy Technician
  • Other medical training and certifications you may have, like Basic Life Support (BLS), CPR, and knowing how to handle potentially infectious materials
  • Job performance and work history

With these other factors in mind, according to Glassdoor, the top salary for a Medical Assistant is around $65,000-$75,000.

What is the Most Important Role of a Medical Assistant?

medical-assistant-doctor-nurse-in-function-room.A Medical Assistant is skilled in a combination of administrative and clinical jobs within a medical facility. According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA.org), the vast majority work outpatients in clinics and ambulatory (day procedure) centers.

You help your doctor and nurse co-workers care for patients by performing tasks like these:

  • HIPAA-compliantly takes a medical history and personal information
  • Take vital signs like blood pressure, pulse, and blood oxygen saturation
  • Aid a doctor and nurse during a minor procedure like stitches and perform minor procedures like removing staples as your training allows
  • Inject a patient’s prescribed medication that a doctor prescribed if allowed in your state.
  • Schedule appointments, manage reminders, and share test results.
  • Prepare patients for a procedure
  • Safely prepare lab samples of bodily fluids like blood or urine
  • Update medical records
  • Set up a room for the next patient and get supplies
  • Billing and coding
  • Explaining treatments to patients

If this seems like a lot, know you aren’t doing it all at once. The most important role of a medical assistant is being flexible. You pivot to where you’re needed. As a result, doing your job never gets boring.

Clinical Medical Assistant Role Vs. Medical Administrative Assistant

It’s also important to mention that in a smaller practice, you’re more likely to do both medical and administrative duties because they can’t hire full-time for both.
However, larger facilities usually have specialized medical assistants. You might be a Clinical Medical Assistant, doing more medical stuff. Or you might specialize in administrative tasks.
In a longer Medical Assistant program, a Clinical Medical Assistant is trained to do both clinical and administrative, although they may not actually do administrative tasks where they work.
A Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) is a related position that focuses only on the administrative side of medical assisting and is usually a shorter program.

What Traits Do Great Medical Assistants Have?

Fabulous Medical Assistants share some common traits:

  • Able to learn to do a lot of different things well and switch between them
  • Attention to detail
  • Critical thinking
  • Fantastic communication skills
  • Patience
  • Task, resource, and inventory management skills
  • Able to work independently
  • Able to listen to instructions and follow them
  • Works well with others
  • Genuine interest in healthcare and people who need that care
  • Lifelong learner

What Does a Medical Assistant Do During Code Blue?

First, what is Code Blue? A Code Blue is a cardiac arrest or medical emergency. During a Code Blue, pre-determined medical and support staff assemble and jump into action to save a life.

Code Blues don’t just happen in the ER / ED. They can happen in the lab, radiology, private practice, rehab center, and anywhere you might work.
As a Medical Assistant, you’ll first follow the guidance of leadership where you work. They may have specific instructions for you. If no one has ever brought this up to you, you may want to impress your employer by asking: what is the Code Blue procedure here, and do you have any special instructions for me if one happens?

But as a general rule, your job will be to stay out of the way but actively available to get what the Code Blue team needs.
Remember: this is an emergency, so everyone will be focused with tension high. Therefore, communication will be abrupt and direct.

You may need to run samples or test results, get supplies, provide pressure for a laceration, keep family informed, or even perform CPR.
In some cases, a Code Blue scenario may occur when you’re the only one with the patient. But Medical Assistants don’t typically “call Code Blue”. A medical professional needs to assess the situation first.

That doesn’t mean you’re not involved and important. A fast-thinking Medical Assistant may check for a pulse, call for a doctor, and start CPR.
Because of the role of a Medical Assistant during Code Blue, you need training in these life-saving basics:

And these days, you can learn these valuable skills online with online medical training for Medical Assistants.

Can You Become a Medical Assistant Online?

medical-assistant-talking-to-a-doctorNational Medical Assistant Week is fast approaching (Oct 19-23).You can complete most coursework to become a medical assistant online—depending on the program. But as NurseJournal.org points out, the hands-on nature of medical assistance does mean that some of your training will have to be in-person.

However, becoming a Medical Assistant is only the first step. You can do a lot of things to further your career and increase pay, and many of these you certainly can do online, like getting CPR and First Aid certified.<‘p>

What Certifications Does a Medical Assistant Need?

A Medical Assistant who goes to school to become one will typically want to become certified at some point to advance their career. When choosing a school to attend, make sure they’re accredited because the professional organization that accredits the schools is also the group that will certify you once you meet their requirements.

You may be called either a Registered Medical Assistant (R.M.A.) or a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA).

You could see one or the other on a job application, and both can apply. The difference simply comes down to which professional organization accredited your school.
CMAs took the exam and got certified through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA.org). RMAs through the American Medical Technologists (AMT).

In both cases, you’ll generally take classes for one year and then work as an MA for another 12 months before becoming registered/certified.

Once you become certified, other certifications like CPR (Cardiac-Pulmonary Resuscitation) and CPT (Phlebotomy) become add-ons that expand your opportunities.

Other Career Paths for an MA

No doubt about it! A Medical Assistant certainly can remain a Medical Assistant throughout their career and enjoy a long, interesting, and rewarding career. Within a larger organization, you may be able to advance into a leadership role where you train and manage other medical assistants.

However, many do choose to enter the healthcare industry as a Medical Assistant. They then use it as a springboard to become a nurse, healthcare administrator, or healthcare office manager.

This is so common it has a name. When an MA works toward becoming a nurse, such as an LPN, BSN, or RN, it’s called the “MA to LPN bridge”. Replace “LPN” with the nursing degree you’re pursuing.

Why People Bridge to Nursing

This more measured approach allows you to work a steady, good-paying job to care for you and your family while reducing the financial burden that getting a four-year degree can be—both in the cost of school and not being able to work a full-time job.

It’s also hard to get into nursing school. Becoming a Medical Assistant first can certainly show your dedication. It can increase your chances of getting accepted into a program. According to RegisteredNurses.org, some of your prior course work may also apply to your nursing program prerequisites, reducing the time it takes to become a nurse.

If you are currently a Medical Assistant who wants to take this career path someday, it’s also advantageous to complete more advanced online medical certification courses like Advanced Cardiac Life Support. What you learn in these courses can prepare you for challenging nursing courses.

Why People Bridge to Nursing

This more measured approach allows you to work a steady, good-paying job to care for you and your family while reducing the financial burden that getting a four-year degree can be—both in the cost of school and not being able to work a full-time job.It’s also hard to get into nursing school. Becoming a Medical Assistant first can certainly show your dedication. It can increase your chances of getting accepted into a program. According to RegisteredNurses.org, some of your prior course work may also apply to your nursing program prerequisites, reducing the time it takes to become a nurse.

If you are currently a Medical Assistant who wants to take this career path someday, it’s also advantageous to complete more advanced online medical certification courses like Advanced Cardiac Life Support. What you learn in these courses can prepare you for challenging nursing courses.

Maintaining Your Certification

Becoming a healthcare professional takes commitment and hard work. Being a great medical assistant takes just as much dedication.

As a CMA or R.M.A., you’ll be required to get recertified periodically. This is standard for professionals. In your case, you’ll need to request recertification every two years. It’s important that you don’t let this lapse, or you may have to take the exam again and suffer other penalties.
To qualify for recertification, you must complete a specified number of hours of continuing education credits. These courses help you stay current with the best medical practices. In fact, medical assistants are among the top professions that need to learn CPR.

The Easy & Convenient Way to Maintain Your Clinical Medical Assistant Certification

The most convenient and cost-effective way to earn credits you need to update your certification as a Clinical Medical Assistant is through online medical certifications.

Save a Life offers certification in practical skills Medical Assistants need, like CPR, First Aid, and handling Bloodborne Pathogens. These courses are based on the most current ILCOR and OSHA guidelines and standards.
Depending on the course, they count as Category 2 and Category 1 CME credits, which you can apply toward your recertification. Save a Life is Joint Commission (JCAHO) Compliant and has a consistent 4.8 out of 5 with TrustPilot after over 10,000 online reviews from students.

These courses are 100% online, so you can take them when it’s convenient for you. Why not start by getting CPR certified?

Share your experience of working as a medical assistant in the comments section below or in our social media community.

About Mackenzie

Mackenzie is a lover of world travel, photography, design, style and Chinese cooking. She is passionate about working towards a purpose, recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Media and Marketing, and is currently residing in Manhattan.

Contact Mackenzie at [email protected]

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Comments
  1. Christiana Treasure says:

    It was quite educative and I got to know about some things I haven’t heard before like the courses a medical assistant can take. Thank you

    1. Ali Drian says:

      You are welcome, Christiana. We are happy you enjoyed it 🙂

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